CHARLESTON, West Virginia – Natural gas processing plants in West Virginia and across the country will soon have to start publicly declaring the chemicals they release, according to new regulations announced by the EPA.
Natural gas processing plants release a cocktail of chemicals, including carcinogenic benzene, hydrogen sulfide, methanol, N-hexane and other compounds with known harmful effects on human health.
Tom Pelton, communications director for the Environmental Integrity Project, said agencies need accurate air pollution records to set standards for protecting public health, but so far they are remained in the dark.
“The way a state government, for example, or the EPA, justifies more stringent air pollution control requirements is through data, through information,” Pelton said.
The rules will go into effect next year, with the first reports of air pollution due to regulators in 2023. The government has argued that their deadline gives facilities enough time to estimate releases and amounts of waste. for chemicals they manufacture, process or otherwise use.
The EPA has estimated that the new rules will cost facilities at least $ 5 million per year to comply.
Pelton explained that other industries are required to regularly report air pollution data to the EPA, but natural gas facilities have so far been exempt from this requirement.
Environmental groups sued the agency in 2015, asking processors to start reporting their pollution to the federal government Toxic release inventory, a public online database.
“And the problem is, do the public have a right to know what is emitting in the air just upstream of their homes?” Pelton explained.
The EPA estimates that the oil and gas extraction industry emits at least 127,000 tons of hazardous air pollutants every year. Pelton noted based on these estimates, the oil and gas extraction industry emits more toxic pollution than any other industry except coal-fired power plants.
“So it’s a significant source of dangerous air pollution, and now we’re going to start to find out more about how much is coming from these natural gas processing plants,” Pelton concluded.
The new EPA regulations do not apply to wellbore sites, compressor stations, pipelines, and facilities employing less than ten people.
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