Addition of Natural Gas Processing Facilities to the Toxics Release Inventory Proposed Rule
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EPA is proposing to add natural gas processing facilities to the scope of the industrial sectors covered by the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). This rule proposes to expand coverage to all natural gas processing facilities, which receive and refine natural gas. Natural gas processing facilities that primarily recover sulfur from natural gas are already covered by TRI. Facilities primarily engaged in natural gas extraction (e.g., exploration, fracking, etc.) are not included in this proposal.
Adding these facilities to the TRI would increase the publicly available information on chemical releases and other waste management activities of TRI-listed chemicals from the natural gas processing sector, while furthering the goals of section 313 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.
EPA has extended the comment period for this proposal. Comments are now due on or before May 6, 2017, and can be submitted on www.regulations.gov to docket ID # EPA-HQ-TRI-2016-0390.
Background on Natural Gas Processing Facilities
Natural gas processing facilities are stationary, surface facilities that receive gas from a gathering system that collects raw natural gas from off-site wells. These facilities prepare the gas to meet industrial or pipeline specifications and extract heavier liquid hydrocarbons from the raw or field natural gas. This processed pipeline-quality natural gas is then transferred to consumers via intra- and inter-state pipeline networks. Natural gas liquids and contaminants separated from the natural gas during the processing are sent downstream to petrochemical manufacturers and refineries, released, or otherwise handled or treated.
In preparing natural gas and associated products, these facilities deal with over 21 TRI-covered chemicals. Accordingly, TRI reporting by these facilities would provide significant release and waste management data that would meaningfully increase the amount of information available to the public and further the purposes of TRI.
Petition Related to the Proposed Rule
On October 24, 2012, the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), together with 18 other organizations submitted a Petition to EPA, pursuant to section 553(e) of the Administrative Procedure Act, requesting EPA exercise its discretionary TRI sector addition authority to add the Oil and Gas Extraction industrial sector to the scope of industrial sectors covered by the reporting requirements of the TRI. On October 22, 2015, EPA granted, in part, the Petition insofar as it requested that EPA commence the rulemaking process to propose adding natural gas processing (NGP) facilities to the scope of TRI.
EPA estimates that at least 282 NGP facilities in the United States would meet the TRI thresholds. These include the employee threshold of 10 full-time employees or equivalent and the activities threshold, which includes the manufacture, processing, or otherwise use of at least one TRI-listed chemical in excess of applicable threshold quantities.