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Legislation

Colorado's Chemical Injection: Legislation

June 10, 2008

Clean Air Act

Twenty-seven chemicals used by the oil and gas industry in Colorado were listed as hazardous pollutants under three sections of the Clean Air Act. The Act, passed in 1970 and amended in 1990, protects Americans from a wide array of air pollution. The Act: (1) requires the use of technologies to control release of hazardous pollutants, (2) requires facilities to establish an emergency management plan for dangerous pollutants, and (3) controls pollutants likely to endanger public health.

The oil and gas industry enjoys an important exemption under the Clean Air Act. The drilling sites are not treated as an aggregated unit for measuring air pollutants, and therefore the relatively small emissions from each individual unit are deemed negligible. An extensive report by the Oil and Gas Accountability Project analyzes important exemptions for the oil and gas industry under a variety of statutes, including the Clean Air Act (OGAP 2007).

Clean Water Act

Twenty-two chemicals used by the oil and gas industry were listed as pollutants that when discharged into navigable waters pose an "imminent and substantial danger to the public health or welfare" under the Clean Water Act. The Act, passed in 1972, protects citizens from a variety of sources of water pollution.

The oil and gas industry is exempted from obtaining a permit for stormwater runoff discharges under the Clean Water Act. The numerous chemicals stored onsite and used in the production process by this industry raises an enormous concern regarding water quality, particularly discharges via surface runoff (OGAP 2007).

Resource Conservation and Recovery Act

Eleven of the 65 chemicals used by the oil and gas industry were listed as hazardous wastes when disposed of unused by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The Act, passed in 1976, is designed to protect human health and the environment from the potential hazards of waste disposal.

The oil and gas industry is exempt under RCRA, which protects citizens from wastes classified as hazardous. This provision exempts the industry from managing hazardous wastes in an environmentally responsible manner (OGAP 2007).

Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act

We found that 40 of the 65 chemicals used by the oil and gas industry are listed as hazardous by the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980, commonly known as Superfund. The act is designed to allow the federal government to respond to releases of hazardous substances that constitute a threat to human health or the environment. The act levies a tax on the chemical and petroleum industries which is to be used to clean up contaminated sites.

Superfund exempts petroleum and crude oil from its list of chemicals, providing a significant escape hatch to the oil and gas industry (OGAP 2007).

Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA)

We found that 30 of the 65 chemicals used by the oil and gas industry are listed under - the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA). The act amended CERCLA in 1986. Among numerous changes it enacted, SARA increased the size of the superfund and provided a greater focus on human health concerns raised by the growing number of contaminants polluting the environment. Section 110 lists chemicals that pose the greatest threat to human health while section 302(a) lists extremely hazardous substances that require cooperative plans between companies and local emergency planning committees to prepare for spills or releases.

Toxics Release Inventory (TRI)

Thirty-six of the 65 chemicals used by the oil and gas industry are required to be reported by other industries -- but not by oil and gas producers -- under the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). The TRI is part of the nation's premier right-to-know law, the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), and requires the reporting of dangerous chemicals when used in amounts above certain thresholds.

Yet the TRI exempts oil and gas companies from reporting requirements, and there are no state requirements for oil and gas companies to report the chemicals they use. If the companies were required to report their chemicals under the TRI, the names of the chemicals would be made available to the public (CFR TRI SIC Codes 2008).

See Appendix A for a list of oil and gas industry chemicals under each statute.