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EPA wants to expand toxic chemicals database

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed requiring large oil and gas processing facilities to publicly report, to the federal Toxics Release Inventory, the names and amounts of the toxic chemicals they emit.

It would be the first expansion in 20 years of the TRI, the online public database in which most other industries must list their pollution emissions, and, according to the EPA, would affect more than half of the 517 existing large oil and gas processing plants around the nation, including three in Western Pennsylvania.

Those are the Mark West-Liberty Midstream & Resources facilities in Washington and Butler counties and the Mountain Gathering LLC facility in Butler County, according to Tom Pelton, a spokesman for the Environmental Integrity Project, a Washington, D.C., environmental organization.

The EPA’s decision to add the large oil and gas facilities to the TRI settled a lawsuit filed in January by the Environmental Integrity Project and nine other environmental and open-government groups.

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But the settlement will not require shale gas well sites, compressor stations, pipelines and other smaller processing facilities that employ fewer than 10 people to disclose their toxic emissions as the groups had sought.

“We wanted them all included, but the fact that the EPA added the processing plants, while not everything we were looking for, is an improvement,” Mr. Pelton said.

Neither Mark West-Liberty Mainstream nor Mountain Gathering, a subsidiary of XTO Energy and ExxonMobil, immediately replied to requests for comment.

In its “letter of determination,” sent to the Environmental Integrity Project on Tuesday, the EPA acknowledged that adding gas processing facilities to the TRI would “meaningfully increase the information available to the public” about their toxic emissions.

Those emissions, the EPA said, likely contain more than 25 TRI-listed chemicals, including hydrogen sulfide, benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene, which are known carcinogens.

The EPA also estimated that approximately 42 million people, almost half of them minorities and 14 percent poor, live within 30 miles of the large gas processing facilities.

The decision to expand the database must go through the EPA’s rulemaking and public review process before it is finalized.

This article was written by Don Hopey from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.