Emissions reporting: Drillers have the same duty as other industries
January 9, 2015 12:00 AM
By the Editorial Board
In its advertising, the natural gas industry assures the public that its operations are safe and that it’s committed to environmentally sound practices. So why does it balk at reporting the pollutants it puts in the air, ground or water?
A coalition of nine environmental groups filed suit Wednesday to force the Environmental Protection Agency to add gas and oil extractors to the list of industries that must report emissions to the federal Toxic Release Inventory.
Reporting already is required of coal mines, power plants, steel mills and oil refineries and even of maple syrup factories, yarn-makers and greeting-card companies. If over the course of a year these enterprises use more than stipulated amounts of any of 650 specified chemicals, they must identify those chemicals and the volume of emissions, which anyone can view online.
Gas drillers and related operations — such as hydraulic fracturing contractors and compressor stations — should have the same obligation. The gas industry is a growing part of the economy, in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, that is controversial largely because of concerns about its environmental impact. According to the coalition, oil and gas extractors collectively are responsible for more emissions than any industry except power plants.
In 1997, the EPA unwisely decided to exempt the industry from the emissions reporting requirement. Now, after trying for two and a half years to get the agency to change its mind, the environmental groups filed suit in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., to force a change.
In resisting the reporting requirement, the industry says most individual facilities don’t use enough of the chemicals to meet the reporting threshold. An exemption may be fine for small emitters, but facilities that surpass the reporting threshold should be as obligated as other big polluters to inform the public of the contents of their releases.
If the EPA won’t impose the reporting requirement on gas and oil extractors, the court should. Detailing emissions is one way to promote an honest discussion about the impact of an important industry.
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