BOSTON (TheStreet) -- Hundreds of oil and gas facilities are together emitting 8.5 million pounds of toxic chemicals annually that go unreported to the EPA's Toxic Release Inventory because of a loophole, according to a letter addressed by the Environmental Integrity Project to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The emissions are in six energy boom states including Texas, Wyoming, Colorado, Louisiana, North Dakota and Pennsylvania.
When the inventory was established by the EPA in 1986, it applied solely to manufacturers. In the 1990s, there was a push by the Clinton administration to add other industries, including coal mining, oil refineries and oil and gas extraction facilities -- which the EPA has acknowledged involves the release of toxic chemicals. But there was uncertainty on how to define or categorize oil and gas wells (whether as individual wells or in a group). The agency punted on the decision and never returned to it.
In 2012, the nonpartisan, nonprofit EIP, founded a decade earlier by former EPA enforcement attorneys to advocate for the enforcement of environmental laws, petitioned the EPA to finally close the loophole and say the oil and gas extraction industry had to report their emissions.
"We are in the middle of an oil and gas boom, but have far too little information about the environmental consequences," said EIP's executive director, Eric Schaeffer, in a press release. "We need this industry to report that pollution to the Toxics Release Inventory where everyone can see it -- just like chemical plants and other facilities have done for more than 20 years."