Oil and gas companies should be required to disclose what chemicals are used and released as a result of their drilling operations, including hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, according to a federal lawsuit filed this week.
A coalition of nine environmental and open-government organizations is suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in a bid to change the rules on which companies must disclose their releases of hazardous pollutants for a government database called the Toxics Release Inventory.
Chemical plants, coal mines, power plants, oil refineries and other businesses have to submit such data, and campaigners say that the same requirements should apply to those engaged in oil and gas drilling.
"Due to EPA's long inaction, the oil and gas extraction industry remains exempt from the Toxics Release Inventory, one of our nation's most basic toxic reporting mechanisms," commented Adam Kron, an attorney for the Environmental Integrity Project, one of the groups behind the lawsuit.
"The Toxics Release Inventory requires just one thing: annual reporting to the public. This reporting is critical to health, community planning and informed decision making. Whether to add the oil and gas extraction industry shouldn't even be a question at this point," he said.
Kron argued that federal and state disclosure requirements are "full of gaps and exemptions" and have not kept pace with industry expansion. As a result, there is little public information about the oil and gas extraction industry's use and release of toxic chemicals.
The lawsuit states that there is an even greater need for disclosure now because the boom in fracking has increased the variety and volume of toxic chemicals being released into the air, ground and water, Bloomberg Businessweek reported.