Environmental Groups Seek Additional Disclosure of Emissions from Oil and Gas Industry
On January 7, 2015, several environmental groups filed suit in the District of Columbia federal district court against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") seeking a response to plaintiffs' October 2012 petition to EPA to bring the oil and gas industry within the scope of the Toxic Release Inventory ("TRI") reporting requirements under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act ("EPCRA"). The TRI provisions of EPCRA require covered facilities to report, on an annual basis, releases into the environment of specifically-listed chemicals. Thus, such requirements may overlap to some extent with state requirements for operators to disclose the chemicals used in their hydraulic fracturing fluids on databases such as FracFocus, as well as other voluntary disclosures made by many operators and service companies.
In order to fall within the scope of the TRI reporting obligation, a facility must have 10 or more full-time employees, manufacture, process, or use a listed chemical, and fall within one of the specified Standard Industrial Classification Codes ("SIC") codes. Although EPCRA did not include the SIC codes associated with the oil and gas industry in those covered by the TRI obligations, EPA has the authority to add additional SIC codes to the list of those covered by the TRI obligations. Plaintiffs' 2012 petition, as well as their more recent complaint, requests that EPA add the SIC codes associated with the oil and gas industry to the list of those covered by the TRI obligations. While plaintiffs propose that EPA add all oil and gas industry facilities within the scope of the TRI obligations, they specifically cite the expansion of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling activity as the source of the dramatic increase in oil and gas extraction facilities over the past decade. However, even if plaintiffs' efforts were successful, it remains to be seen how EPCRA's definition of a "facility," defined as "all buildings, equipment, structures, and other stationary items which are located on a single site or on contiguous or adjacent sites and which are owned or operated by the same person," would be applied to hydraulic fracturing operations, which are typically temporary in nature and involve wells, pads, compressors, and other equipment disbursed over a large area. Read the environmental groups' complaint