EPA Releases Proposed Rule Requiring Natural Gas Processing Plants To Start Reporting Toxic Pollution


Proposal is a Victory for Open Government, Transparency, and the Public Right to Know
Washington, D.C. – In response to a petition by nineteen environmental and open-government groups, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today released proposed regulations that will require natural gas processing plants to start publicly reporting the toxic chemicals they release.
“Today’s proposal by EPA marks significant progress for public health, the environment, and the right to know,” said Adam Kron, senior attorney for the Environmental Integrity Project.  “The oil and gas industry releases an enormous amount of toxic pollutants every year, and communities deserve to know what they’re facing.  We hope EPA will move swiftly to finalize and implement this simple yet vital public-reporting rule.”
The proposed regulations come in response to a 2012 petition filed by the Environmental Integrity Project and eighteen partner organizations.  The groups asked EPA to require facilities in the oil and gas extraction industry to report their toxic pollution to the federal Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), an online public database that has existed for thirty years and to which most other industries have long reported.
EIP’s co-petitioners are the Natural Resources Defense Council, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, CitizenShale, Clean Air Council, Clean Water Action, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Earthworks, Elected Officials to Protect New York, Environmental Advocates of New York, Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper, PennEnvironment, PennFuture, Powder River Basin Resource Council, Project on Government Oversight, Responsible Drilling Alliance, San Juan Citizens Alliance, Sierra Club, and Texas Campaign for the Environment.  The groups filed a lawsuit against EPA in January 2015 to compel EPA to respond to the petition, which the agency finally did in October 2015.
“This welcome step from EPA is long overdue,” said Amy Mall, senior policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council.  “People deserve to know what toxic chemicals are being released near their homes, schools and hospitals. Yet, for too long, the oil and gas industry has been exempt from rules that apply to other industries. We will hold the next administration accountable for putting an end to that special treatment.”
Under EPA’s proposed regulations, approximately 281 to 444 natural gas processing facilities across the U.S. would have to start reporting their releases of toxic chemicals, including xylenes (which can cause breathing problems, headaches, and neurological problems), formaldehyde (which is a carcinogen and damages the respiratory system), and benzene (which can cause cancer).   Not included in EPA’s decision are well sites, compressor stations, pipelines, and other smaller facilities that employ fewer than 10 people.
The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register this morning, and can be found here.
“The oil and gas industry knows its polluting our neighborhoods,” said Aaron Mintzes, Policy Advocate for Earthworks. “EPA isn’t proposing to make them stop, just requiring these companies to let people know about toxic pollution released near their homes, schools, and workplaces. And while this rule would cover just natural gas processing plants, by the time they finalize this rule, EPA should also add the well heads, pipelines, compressor stations and other oil and gas infrastructure.”
In support of its proposed rule, EPA has stated that there are 517 natural gas processing facilities in the lower-48 states as of 2012 (a subsequent estimate found 551 facilities in 2014), and more than half of these plants would meet the Toxics Release Inventory’s chemical reporting thresholds for twenty-one different toxic chemicals, including benzene (a carcinogen), hydrogen sulfide, n-hexane, and methanol.
Congress established the Toxics Release Inventory in 1986 to inform the public about the release of sometimes carcinogenic chemicals (such as benzene) from industries in the wake of the deadly 1984 Bhopal disaster in India, in which toxic gases killed thousands of local residents.
In 2012, EPA estimated that the oil and gas extraction industry emits at least 127,000 tons of hazardous air pollutants every year, all of which are TRI-listed chemicals.  Based on these estimates, the oil and gas extraction industry releases more toxic pollution to the air than any other industry except for power plants.
The Energy Information Administration’s website provides a current listing of natural gas processing facilities across the U.S.
Anne Havemann, General Counsel at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network: “The public has a right to know when toxic and harmful pollution is released, and this right does not end at fracked-gas processing facilities.  We’re glad to see EPA acknowledge that right with today’s proposed rule.”
George Jugovic, Jr., Vice President of Legal Affairs at PennFuture:  “EPA’s decision to add natural gas processing plants to the Toxics Release Inventory will add critically needed information about the level of toxic chemicals being released by an industry that generally seems adverse to informing the public about the potential health risks of living near these facilities.  The only way for state and local governments to make informed decisions about protecting public health is to increase transparency about the nature and level of toxic chemicals being released by the shale gas industry. This is an important step forward to protecting and informing citizens and their families.”
Joseph Otis Minott, Executive Director and Chief Counsel of Clean Air Council: “A true victory for the many residents of Pennsylvania that live in gas shale areas. They have suffered from this polluting industry for years. The gas industry has been far too secretive about its toxic emissions.”
Tom Pelton, Environmental Integrity Project
(443) 510-2574

Listen to our Emergency Climate Call with Bill McKibben on Regional Climate Action

On the evening of January 5, CCAN hosted an emergency climate conference call with 350.org’s Bill McKibben and more than 500 activists in our network. The call was extremely powerful, and if you didn’t get a chance, you can listen to a recording on this page or by clicking here.
Many thanks to Bill and everyone who made this inspiring emergency call possible!
But we don’t stop here.
There are so many ways to get involved in coming months — here’s a snapshot:

Listen to the call below. Or, download the mp3 by clicking this link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5_x6ikrqjjPeVNod1RieV9sZW8/view?usp=sharing
And please share widely!


New Website Empowers Maryland Communities To Promote Equitable Utility Reforms



Will Provide Public Education and Advocacy Tools for Local Communities to Promote Utility Reforms
TAKOMA PARK, MARYLAND: Marylanders for Energy Democracy & Affordability (MEDA) recently launched their new website: www.MDENERGYFORALL.org.
The website features the latest news and resources to keep communities informed, and will serve as a platform to coordinate local advocacy efforts for grid modernization, affordable energy, and access to solar, efficiency and smart-grid technologies, such as the widespread reforms now under consideration by utility regulators in the Maryland Public Service Commission’s “Grid of the Future” case (PC 44).
MEDA is a diverse network of public interest organizations and residents working to create a fair, equitable, and democratic transition to a clean, reliable, and affordable energy economy. The network includes Fuel Fund of Maryland, GRID Alternatives, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, Interfaith Power and Light, Maryland Solar United Neighborhoods, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, and Sierra Club-Maryland Chapter.
MEDA’s goals are to create a system in Maryland that:

  • Makes energy affordable for everyone.
  • Bolsters jobs and economic growth within local communities.
  • Protects our climate.
  • Provides consumers greater control over their energy sources and usage.
  • Increases energy security and reliability.
  • Shifts from a centralized to a local and distributed energy environment.

MEDA works to bring communities throughout the state together to advance this vision through public education and advocacy.
Visit www.MDENERGYFORALL.org to stay up-to-date on their progress, and to find out how you can take action to bring affordable, clean energy to your community.
Lyn Griffith Taylor
Marylanders for Energy Democracy & Affordability
(301) 270-6477 (ext. 13)

Community and Conservation Groups Blast FERC Findings on Fracked-Gas Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Over 100 concerned Virginians weathered the cold and rallied in Waynesboro on November 1st to stop the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

Community and Conservation Groups Blast FERC Findings on Fracked-Gas Atlantic Coast Pipeline  

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Dozens of local groups and public advocacy organizations today condemned federal regulators for ignoring evidence that the proposed 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline is not needed and puts lives, communities, drinking water supplies, private property, publicly owned natural resources and the climate at unacceptable risk.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has released its draft environmental review of the $5 billion pipeline spearheaded by Dominion Resources. For two years, the proposal has sparked fierce opposition from hundreds of landowners in the three states — including farmers, business leaders, Native American tribes and rural African-American communities — who reject the company’s plan to take their land without their consent. Their fight has drawn comparisons to the ongoing citizen-led resistance at Standing Rock against the Dakota Access Pipeline, and to the fight in Nebraska to stop the Keystone XL Pipeline.
The Atlantic Coast project would pump fracked gas across West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina, harming communities, water resources, private property, historic sites, and iconic public treasures including the Blue Ridge Parkway and Appalachian Trail. The groups say FERC failed to honestly assess these impacts and disregarded evidence that the project would lock consumer into decades more reliance on dirty fossil fuels.
An independent study shows there is enough existing gas supply in Virginia and the Carolinas to meet consumer demand through 2030 — negating the need for the massive pipeline and the harm it would trigger. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is one of six major pipelines proposed for the same region of West Virginia and Virginia, where experts warn the gas industry is overbuilding pipeline infrastructure. However, FERC ignored this evidence in its draft Environmental Impact Statement while also failing to assess the cumulative effects of the pipelines. The groups also fault the agency for dismissing clean energy alternatives.
In response to requests from numerous elected officials and organizations, FERC has extended the usual 45-day period for public comments; the deadline is April 6, 2017.
While legal and environmental experts are continuing to review the document, they have initially identified major gaps in FERC’s analysis, including:

  • The core issue of whether the massive project is needed to meet electricity demand, and whether alternatives including energy efficiency, solar and wind would be more environmentally responsible sources;
  • A complete analysis of the cumulative, life-cycle climate pollution that would result from the pipeline;
  • A full accounting of the negative economic consequences to communities, including decreased property values, loss of tourism revenue and other factors;
  • Any accounting of other environmental and human health damage from the increased gas fracking in West Virginia that would supply the pipeline; and
  • Thorough, site-specific analysis of damage to water quality and natural resources throughout the pipeline route.

Citizens along the route of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline — along with landowners in the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a 301-mile fracked-gas project proposed in the same region — vow they will continue to build resistance to stop them.

Statements from community, environmental and legal experts:

Nancy Sorrells, Augusta County Alliance, 540-292-4170, info@augustacountyalliance.org “Every foot of this route has a victim: a family that would be displaced, a farmer who would impacted, schoolchildren whose safety is compromised, and residents whose drinking water is a risk. And for what? Not for energy independence or to turn on the lights, but rather for the profit of a private corporation.”
Chad Oba, Friends of Buckingham, Cofounder and Chair, 434-969-3229, chado108@me.com “Buckingham County is being targeted for a massive, noisy, polluting compressor station — the project’s only one in Virginia — in an area of former slave plantations that is densely populated by mostly African-American Freedmen. FERC’s review omits virtually all of the cultural resource reports we submitted, effectively erasing us from the record even as we bear the greatest burden. The leaders of Standing Rock have pledged strong kinship with us as another example of environmental racism.”
Ericka Faircloth, a Lumbee Indian member of the grassroots group EcoRobeson. (For interview requests, contact Hope Taylor with Clean Water for NC at hope@cwfnc.org ) “Folks who live in Robeson County, one of the poorest and most diverse counties in North Carolina, are especially vulnerable to the empty promise of jobs. Residents of low wealth will be most severely impacted by higher utility rates to pay for the pipeline, and by lowered value for their land. Potential drinking water contamination, loss of forests and disruption of  cultural sites are among the risks many that poor communities are expected to ‘deal with’ to make way for a project that’s only about  profit.”
Joe Lovett, Appalachian Mountain Advocates, Executive Director, 304-520-2324, jlovett@appalmad.org   “We’re appalled FERC has once more refused to conduct a combined review of the massive slate of pipelines proposed to move fracked gas out of our region. FERC has the extraordinary power to grant ACP the right to take private property for private profit. Yet FERC decided that it didn’t have to do the hard work necessary to determine whether the ACP is necessary. Such a lack of diligence is truly remarkable.”
April Pierson-Keating, Mountain Lakes Preservation Alliance (W.Va.), 304-642-9436, apkeating@hotmail.com: “This pipeline would add insult to injury in West Virginia, where we are already dealing with water and health impacts due to fracking. It would lock us into decades more fossil fuel pollution when we should be moving to renewable energy. This pipeline would continue the harm done by extractive industry to the most vulnerable of us — low-income people, the elderly, the disenfranchised.”
Peter Anderson, Virginia Campaign Coordinator, Appalachian Voices, 434-293-6373, peter@appvoices.org  “This pipeline would carry highly pressurized gas across miles of steep mountain terrain that is prone to rock slides and contains many headwater streams. Routing this pipeline across the Appalachian Trail and vulnerable water resources poses an unacceptable risk, especially given that it’s not needed to meet our energy needs.”
Anne Havemann, General Counsel, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, 240-396-1984, anne@chesapeakeclimate.org: “The Atlantic Coast pipeline will trigger a massive new wave of greenhouse gas pollution and climate damage. Yet, FERC’s review once again fails to add up the full impact, ignoring cumulative climate pollution from fracking wells and the ultimate burning of the gas.”
Greg Buppert, Senior Attorney, Southern Environmental Law Center, 434-977-4090, gbuppert@selcva.org “Dominion’s Atlantic Coast pipeline will not only irreparably alter our natural terrain but it is also unnecessary. The current route carves through the mountains in an area the U.S. Forest Service calls, ‘the wildland core of the central Appalachians’, for a pipeline that will lock generations of Virginians into dependence on natural gas. We already have the gas needed to bridge us from dirty to clean energy-existing infrastructure can meet our demands for natural gas for at least the next fifteen years. This is a Dominion self-enrichment project, not a public necessity.”
Kirk Bowers, Pipelines Campaign Manager, Virginia Chapter, Sierra Club, 434-296-8673, kirk.bowers@sierraclub.org “The DEIS is deficient in many respects and needs to be re-issued. It imposes absurd pre-conditions for serious consideration and fails to affirmatively seek out alternatives that would meet the presumed need while greatly mitigating harms to the public and environment, land-takings and even costs. Likewise, the Commission needs to stop approving all projects that have contract support and take seriously its duties to consider all factors affecting the public convenience and necessity, including protecting environmental interests and private property rights not to have land seized for privately owned pipelines just because another private party contracts for service.The ACP is not needed to keep the lights on, homes and businesses heated, or industries in production.”  

Over 100 concerned Virginians weathered the cold and rallied in Waynesboro on November 1st to stop the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
Over 100 concerned Virginians weathered the cold and rallied in Waynesboro on November 1st to stop the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

Thousands Demand An Accurate Review Of Mountain Valley Pipeline

Thousands of citizens, local and conservation groups demand FERC do an accurate review of the Mountain Valley Pipeline

Groups call on FERC to issue completely revised Draft EIS
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Over the past three months, more than 17,000 people in the affected region — along with tens of thousands of others across the country — have sent comments or signed petitions to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission demanding the agency do a thorough, accurate and unbiased review of the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline, and ultimately reject the project. Local groups and environmental organizations submitted hundreds of detailed comments to the Federal Energy Regulatory (FERC) outlining numerous reasons finding the Draft Environmental Impact Statement substantially lacking information for meaningful review.
The proposed pipeline passes through important habitat in the Jefferson National Forest and would have devastating impacts on the New River Valley and surrounding areas. There are many substantial deficiencies in the DEIS that must be corrected through the issuance of a completely revised DEIS, including the failure to fully evaluate the need for the MVP and the failure to fully evaluate the impacts to water resources, wetlands, cultural resources, threatened and endangered species, and climate change implications. Correcting these deficiencies will require significant new analysis and the incorporation of high quality and accurate information regarding MVP impacts.
Legal and environmental experts have filed review comments of the nearly 2,600-page document that identified major gaps in FERC’s analysis, including:

  • Failure to identify, consider, and analyze all reasonable alternatives. The DEIS fails to consider alternative routes and options, including a “no action” alternative, as required by the National Environmental Protection Act. The Council on Environmental Quality  refers to the alternatives analysis section as the “heart of the EIS”.
  • Failure to consider climate change impacts. FERC does not analyze the significance of the total annual greenhouse gas emissions in any meaningful way.
  • Failure to address the need for the MVP. Despite the clear requirement to discuss the need for the MVP project in the DEIS, FERC says that it will not address project need until after the environmental analysis is over.
  • Failure to provide adequate environmental information. The DEIS lacks sufficient information about the MVP and its potential environmental impacts on a wide variety of resources, including water resources, wetlands, cultural resources, threatened and endangered species, and climate change implications.

In addition to significant flaws, there is a significant amount of information regarding other environmental impacts that is missing from the DEIS that will not be provided by the applicants in a manner that facilitates meaningful public disclosure and participation.
David Sligh, Conservation Director, Wild Virginia, 434-964-7455.
“FERC must revise the draft EIS to correct gross deficiencies in information and flawed analyses.  Wild Virginia calls on the federal Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service to insist on a new and adequate DEIS from FERC, or to fulfill their legal duties and prepare their own.”
Ben Luckett, Senior Attorney, Appalachian Mountain Advocates, 304.645.0125, bluckett@appalmad.org.
“We’re shocked the FERC has continued to disregard its federal duties and fast track this project — especially given major gaps in the agency’s understanding of the pipeline’s impacts, as well as any need for it in the first place. FERC has the extraordinary power to allow MVP to take private property for its shareholders’ own private gain. Just because the job of evaluating the impacts of such a massive project is difficult doesn’t mean that FERC may cut corners and ignore its important duty to the public. FERC should not proceed forward, sacrificing family land and other private property, without fully analyzing this destructive and unnecessary pipeline.”  
Lara Mack, Virginia Field Organizer, Appalachian Voices, 540-246-9720. lara@appovices.org.
“FERC woefully underestimated the impacts the Mountain Valley Pipeline will have on the Appalachian mountains, wildlife habitat, water resources, and communities. If FERC did it’s job correctly, with the public interest in mind, it would see this project for what it is —  a dangerous boondoggle.”
Andrew Downs, Regional Director, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, 540.904.4354, adowns@appalachiantrail.org.
“Through a deficient level of planning and environmental impact assessment, the MVP project represents a threat not only to the purpose and values of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail but, by undermining the United States Forest Services’ protection of the AT, it represents a fundamental and existential threat to the entire National Trails System”
Anne Havemann, General Counsel, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, 240-396-1984, anne@chesapeakeclimate.org.
“FERC’s draft environmental review utterly ignores the pipeline’s full impacts on the climate. The limited–and opaque–review fails to fully account for methane pollution from increased fracking that the pipeline would trigger, from leakage along the route, and from the ultimate burning of the gas. The pipeline would fail the White House’s climate test. FERC must revise its review to include the pipeline’s full lifecycle of climate pollution, and consider clean energy alternatives.”
Ellen Darden, POWHR Co-Chair,  Montgomery County, Va. 540-230-1091
“The people of Appalachia stand united in an unprecedented interstate coalition: Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights (POWHR), to make clear to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the United States Forest Service, the US Army Corp of Engineers, US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management that Mountain Valley Pipeline has failed to establish a need for this destructive project.

FERC’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement summarily ignores the detailed, credentialed hydrogeologic, economic, historical preservation and cultural attachment research submitted by the POWHR coalition and hundreds of landowners opposed to MVP. Rather than interfering and obstructing public opposition to MVP, FERC must review the entire body of scientific research submitted and reject this project.”

Kirk A Bowers, PE, Pipelines Campaign Coordinator, VA Chapter, Sierra Club, 434.296.8673, kirk.bowers@sierraclub.org.
“The Draft EIS is blatantly biased. It makes sweeping unsubstantiated claims of the need for the pipeline while dismissing any and all potential adverse effects. The applicant provides cursory responses to data requests in a perfunctory manner without analyses or serious consideration of the adverse effects of the proposed pipeline. The applicant has failed to make reasonable efforts to avoid and minimize adverse effects on communities, landowners and ecosystems impacted by the proposed pipeline. In light of the incompetent and unprofessional manner in which the application has been handled by MVP LLC, it is incumbent on FERC to reject the application.”

Baltimore County Council Votes To Endorse a State-Wide Fracking Ban

Baltimore County Council Votes To Endorse a State-Wide Fracking Ban 
County Council approves resolution to support a state-wide ban in Maryland and to ban fracking within Baltimore County if the moratorium is allowed to expire
Towson MD. – Baltimore County voted 6 to 1 to approve a measure supporting a state-wide ban on hydraulic-fracturing.
More than a dozen localities in Maryland have now approved or introduced measures to either ban fracking locally or to endorse a permanent, statewide ban. The list includes the western Maryland towns of Friendsville and Mountain Lake Park, the counties of Prince George’s, Montgomery, Anne Arundel, and Frederick, and the cities of Baltimore, Rockville, and Greenbelt.

Baltimore County Council Chair Vicki Almond stated, “Given the ever growing scientific evidence that fracking is harmful to land, water and people, we must continue to ban this practice in Baltimore County and throughout the State of Maryland.”

Polling shows that, by a 2-to-1 margin, voters across Maryland support statewide legislation to ban fracking. Unless the General Assembly passes a permanent, statewide ban next year, Governor Larry Hogan’s administration could allow fracking to begin after October 2017, when the state’s moratorium will expire.

“A groundswell of support is building across Maryland to ban fracking,” said Brooke Harper, Maryland Field Director at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “In 2017, it’s time for the General Assembly to follow the lead of western Maryland citizens and cities like Frostburg and pass a permanent, statewide ban.”
Brooke Harper, 301-992-6875brooke@chesapeakeclimate.org
Denise Robbins, 240-396-2022, denise@chesapeakeclimate.org