On January 7th, several environmental groups filed suit against the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The groups allege that federal and state law are outdated and therefore fail to ensure that the public is properly educated concerning the oil and gas industry’s increased reliance on and discharge of chemicals.
Under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, the EPA is authorized to require members of an industry to comply with the reporting requirements of the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) under certain circumstances. Plaintiffs contend that the EPA’s ability to impose additional disclosure requirements has been triggered by the chemical discharge by the oil and gas industry.
According to Plaintiffs, the oil and gas industry has increased its use of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling and therefore also increased the amount and type of chemicals it relies upon. Plaintiffs argue that these chemicals are harmful and enter the environment in a variety of ways. Plaintiffs further allege that the oil and gas industry releases more than 100,000 tons of air pollutants annually.
That said, Plaintiffs acknowledge that the EPA has repeatedly refrained from subjecting the oil and gas industry to the disclosure requirements in the TRI. In fact, in 2011, the EPA proposed to apply the TRI to six additional industries but did not include the oil and gas sector.
In 2012, Plaintiffs petitioned the EPA to initiate a rulemaking to include the oil and gas industry to the list of companies required to make disclosures under the TRI. After the EPA refrained from subjecting the oil and gas industry to the TRI’s reporting requirements, Plaintiffs filed the instant suit, requesting a declaratory judgment that the EPA’s failure to take action contravenes the Administrative Procedure Act and an order directing the EPA to properly respond to Plaintiffs’ petition.
Plaintiffs argue that the EPA’s refusal to properly respond not only ensures that the public continues to have insufficient information but also prohibits Plaintiffs from obtaining judicial review of the EPA’s decision. In addition, Plaintiffs contend that the EPA’s failure inhibits their ability to monitor the oil and gas industry.