EPA Puts Natural Gas Facilities on its “Naughty” List for 2022

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is moving to include natural gas processing (NGP) facilities, also referred to as “natural gas liquid extraction facilities”, to the expanding list of industry groups obligated to report releases of specific chemicals pursuant to the reporting requirements of Section 313 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986 (EPCRA), commonly known as the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI).

The TRI requires certain industrial entities that create, manufacture, or otherwise use certain identified chemicals including hexane, hydrogen sulfide, toluene, benzene, xylene, and methanol, to report yearly statistics of such chemicals entering local soil, water, or plant or animal ecosystems. These entities are also required to report pollution prevention and recycling data.

This new forceful push by the EPA to include NGPs in the TRI marks the culmination of a decade-long political tug-of-war, started in 2012 when environmental groups petitioned the EPA to add the oil and gas extraction industry sector to the scope of the TRI program. The EPA rejected most of the proposal in 2015, but the Obama administration reconsidered in 2017 and tacitly agreed to the inclusion of NGPs. The initiative was put on hold during the Trump administration but revived by the Biden administration on November 24, 2021..

Industry insiders and opponents of the initiative criticize it on a number of grounds, including claims that the EPA has miscalculated the toll on the industrial entities to be regulated, that this new rule will cause confusion as to what constitutes a “facility” subject to the rule, whether certain facilities fall within the industry codes identified in the rule, and that much of the data that will be reported is already in the public domain.

The rule takes effect on December 27, 2021, proactively applies to calendar year 2022, and has a reporting deadline of July 1, 2023.