USEPA’s Proposal for Addition of Natural Gas Processing Facilities to the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI)
On January 6, 2017 the EPA proposed a Rule to add Natural Gas Processing (NGP) facilities (also known as natural gas liquid extraction facilities) to the scope of the industrial sectors covered by the reporting requirements of Section 313 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), commonly known as the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). Those potentially impacted by the proposed Rule may submit comments to the EPA on or before March 7, 2017*.
The Proposed Rule can be found here.
What is the TRI Program?
TRI tracks the management of certain toxic chemicals that may pose a threat to human health and the environment. Facilities in the US in different industry sectors must report annually (July 1st) on how much of each listed chemical is released to the environment and/or managed through recycling, energy recovery and treatment. A "release" of a chemical means that it is emitted to the air or water, or placed in some type of land disposal. Information reported to the EPA is subsequently released to the public and is easily searchable via we-based tools (e.g., zip code search) for a listing of nearby facilities with reportable toxic releases.
For reporting to be applicable, the following three criteria must be met: (1) the facility’s primary Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code must fall within those listed, (2) must have full-time equivalent employees of 10 or more (e.g., 20,000 hours), and chemical activity “use” threshold quantities must met. Chemical activity threshold are generally 25,000 pounds per year for chemicals manufactured or processed, and 10,000 pounds for chemicals otherwise used. Lower chemical activity thresholds exist for persistent, bio-accumulative, and toxic chemicals (e.g., lead at 100 pounds).
Also, EPA requires some suppliers of mixtures or other trade name products containing one or more of the EPCRA Section 313 chemicals to notify their customers. The required notification must be provided at least annually in writing. Acceptable forms of notice include letters, product labeling, and product literature distributed to customers.
Why is EPA Proposing to add the NGP sector?
By a letter dated October 24, 2012, the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), together with 16 other organizations submitted a Petition to EPA to add the Oil and Gas Extraction industrial sector (SIC code 13) to the scope of industrial sectors already covered by the reporting requirements of the TRI. This would have potentially included seven additional sub-sectors such as Crude Petroleum and Natural Gas Extraction, Drilling Oil and Gas Wells, Support Activities for Oil and Gas Operations, etc. While industry groups were able to convince EPA not to add the Crude Petroleum and Natural Gas Extraction category to the list of industries subject to TRI reporting, EPA partially granted the Petitioners request by agreeing to add the single sub-sector for Natural Gas Liquid Extraction to the scope of TRI reporting. These NGP facilities are categorized under SIC code 1321 and North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code 211112.
Which facilities are potentially covered by the proposed Rule?
The proposed Rule would cover facilities that primarily engaged in the recovery of liquid hydrocarbons from oil and gas field gases, including facilities that engage in sulfur recovery from natural gas, and which manufacture, process, or otherwise use any of the 690 TRI chemicals or chemical categories listed and which meet the reporting requirements of EPCRA.
EPA estimates that at least 282 NGP facilities in the US would meet the TRI employee threshold (10 full-time employees or equivalent) and manufacture, process, or otherwise use (threshold activities) at least one TRI-listed chemical in excess of applicable threshold quantities. EPA’s upper bound analysis states that up to 444 facilities may trigger reporting.
EPA has relied upon the 2014 Energy Information Administration’s 757 Baseline Survey (EIA-757) as their primary source of information on potentially impacted facilities. Of the potentially impacted facilities, approximately 6 facilities are located in Ohio, 11 facilities are located in Pennsylvania, and 16 are located in West Virginia per the 2014 EIA-757 survey.
What chemicals would likely be reported if the proposed Rule is finalized?
EPA estimates that NGP facilities in the US manufacture, process, or otherwise use more than twenty-one (21) different TRI-listed chemicals, including n-hexane, toluene, hydrogen sulfide, cyclohexane, benzene, xylene, methanol, ethylene glycol, ethylbenzene, etc. EPA expects that TRI reporting by NGP facilities would provide significant release and waste management data on these chemicals to the public.
What is estimated burden?
EPA’s economic analysis assumes that the NGP facilities subject to the proposed Rule would each report information concerning eight chemicals, with a first-year cost of approximately $31,000 to comply with the proposed Rule. These costs are associated with data gathering, understanding complex processes, calculation of release and waste management quantities, electronic reporting, etc.
Do I have any obligations if I don't meet the three TRI criteria?
In order to demonstrate reporting non-applicability, it is important to annually review the criteria which would otherwise trigger reporting. This primarily involves reviewing employee hours and chemical usage activity. It is also important to keep records, consistent with TRI record keeping standards, to demonstrate non-applicability. In addition, a facility may be covered by the supplier notification requirements even if the facility is not covered by the Section 313 release reporting requirements.
* Note: Per Federal Register Notice (82 FR 12924, dated March 8, 2017), the deadline for comments have been extended until May 6, 2017.