A coalition of nine environmental and open-government groups sued the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday for its decades-long failure to require the oil and gas extraction industry to disclose the toxic chemicals released by fracking, natural gas processing, and related operations.

The lawsuit (pdf) follows a petition that the groups filed in October 2012, requesting that EPA require the oil and gas industry to disclose such pollution to the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), a federal public pollution database established in 1986 to inform the public about the industrial release of carcinogenic chemicals (such as benzene) in the wake of the deadly 1984 Bhopal disaster in India, in which toxic gases from a chemical plant killed thousands of local residents. Entities such as oil refineries, petrochemical plants, power plants, and mining companies have had to comply with these ‘right-to-know’ rules for years—decades, in some cases. 

“This is the last major sector that has not been included in the inventory,” the lead attorney in the suit, Adam Korn of the Environmental Integrity Project, told the Houston Chronicle. “We’re just saying to the EPA, look again. The industry is different now.”

By EPA’s own estimates, 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.

As the lawsuit points out, the number of fracking and drilling operations in the U.S. has increased “dramatically” in the last decade. “Simultaneously, the volume and variety of toxic chemicals used by the industry has expanded significantly,” it notes.

However, “[d]ue to EPA’s long inaction, the oil and gas extraction industry remains exempt from the Toxics Release Inventory, one of our nation’s most basic toxic reporting mechanisms,” Kron said. “The Toxic Release Inventory requires just one thing: annual reporting to the public. This reporting is critical to health, community planning, and informed decision making. Whether to add the oil and gas extraction industry shouldn’t even be a question at this point.”

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