The metal mining industry is the nation's top toxic polluter.
Federal loopholes still allow oil and gas industry to hide its hazardous chemicals from the national Toxics Release Inventory, according to the nonprofit organization Earthworks. A summary of Erathwork’s comments on the toxics release inventory follows:
On January 6th 2012 the Environmental Protection Agency has released its complete analysis of the most recent Toxics Release Inventory data. The EPA’s analysis of the data publicly released in October 2011 has indicated that, as with every year since the metal mining industry was required to begin reporting in 1997, the metal mining industry is the nation's largest toxic polluter. The metal industry releases 41% of all reported toxics in 2010, or 1.6 billion pounds.
The metal mining industry accounts for the vast majority of toxic heavy metals and metalloids released such as
- arsenic (96% / 280 million pounds),
- mercury (92% / 4.4 million pounds) and
- lead (86% / 538 million pounds).
Additionally, and unfortunately, one of the most serious threats to our nation's drinking water supply is left unknown. Unlike almost all other industries, oil and gas producers do not have to report releases for most of their operations under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to- Know Act (EPCRA), the legislation authorizing TRI, or under any other federal statute – including the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act.
The damage from this omission is increasing thanks to the shale gas boom enabled by horizontal hydraulic fracturing. Drilling for oil and gas now occurs in 34 states across the country, threatening the drinking water sources of tens of millions of Americans. Yet communities are in the dark because drillers don't have to report the toxics they release from the thousands of wells and compressors.
While individual states are beginning to require disclosure, the Toxics Release Inventory exemplifies why state regulations continue to come up short: easily accessible national data allows comparison across regions, industries and chemicals. Federal reporting requirements allow communities to better judge the risks posed by toxics in their communities. And as a consequence, and as happened with mercury air pollution from gold mining, it allows those communities to exert pressure on both industries and government to require reductions in toxics releases.
The Toxic Release Inventory once again shows why effective federal environmental oversight of resource extraction is necessary to protect communities and the environment.