The oil and gas industry has grown dramatically over the last decade.
The advent of hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) has allowed oil and gas companies to access large stores of oil and gas that previously were locked in shale rock formations. This fracking-driven boom has resulted in two key types of impacts.
The climate-changing effects from the industry’s substantial releases of methane, a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide, and the environmental and human-health effects of the industry’s releases of toxic chemicals and wastes to our air, rivers, drinking water, and land.
The price of this pollution weighs most heavily on rural, low-income, and minority communities in the form of increased exposure to toxic chemicals and related health risks such as cancer, neurological disease, and many other serious health complications. Further, there is a clear link between the volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxide emissions released by oil and gas facilities and smog formation, the main culprit behind increased asthma in the young and elderly, associated hospitalizations, and missed days at school and work.
Oil and gas production, processing, refineries, and petrochemical plants are also some of the largest sources of industrial greenhouse gases in the nation, behind only coal-fired power plants. Tackling emissions from these industries is necessary if we are going to have any hope of averting a climate disaster and achieving the United States’ carbon dioxide emission reduction goals in the coming decades.
EIP strives to reduce toxic releases and greenhouse gas emissions from this industry through a mix of advocacy, regulatory work, and strategic litigation. Our work focuses on the following three key areas:
Stricter Standards and Tougher Enforcement
The oil and gas industry produces vast amounts of toxic air and water pollution and is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. EIP works to reduce these releases and protect communities by pushing federal and state authorities for tighter regulation of air pollution from oil and gas facilities and stronger controls of oil and gas wastes; investigating and bringing lawsuits against facilities for illegal releases to the air, rivers, and drinking water; and representing and working with neighbors to protect against unwanted, large-scale processing, distribution, and petrochemical plants that could destroy their community’s quality of life.
September 2015: EPA issues new air standards restricting the pollution oil refineries can emit and reducing the health risk millions of Americans face from breathing toxic air. EPA took action as a result of a 2012 settlement in a lawsuit filed by EIP and Earthjustice.
May 2016: EIP and allies sue EPA over dangerous drilling and fracking waste. The groups are calling for regulations to stop oil and gas companies from disposing and handling drilling and fracking wastes in ways that threaten public health and the environment.
February 2016: EIP report finds that low gas prices from fracking has sparked proposals for 44 petrochemical projects in 2015. These projects would increase greenhouse gas pollution by 86 million tons a year, as much as 19 coal-fired power plants.
How Much Pollution: The Public’s Right To Know
The release of toxic air and water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas industry is notoriously undercounted and underreported. Industry’s lowballing of emissions undermines strict regulations and the public’s ability to understand their risk of exposure. EIP works tirelessly to improve how pollution is reported by this industry.
- October 2015: EPA will propose a rule requiring natural gas processing plants to start reporting toxic pollution to EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) in response to a petition and lawsuit filed by EIP and allies.
Community Engagement: Giving Citizens a Voice
EIP works on the ground with grass roots organizations and communities to raise awareness about the health and environmental impacts of the oil and gas industry and to provide citizens with the tools they need to participate fully in the public process when it comes to oil and gas expansion projects. EIP’s Pennsylvania Outreach Coordinator, Lisa Graves-Marcucci, meets with local residents and educates them about what they can do to protect their rights and quality of life. We also work on empowering citizens in Texas, Louisiana, and Baltimore through our targeted reports on pollution, enforcement work, and community monitoring projects.
- The Human Cost of Energy Production: EIP teamed up with the International League of Conservation Photographers to help the public understand the harm the fracking boom is causing to families in Western Pennsylvania and Maryland. The photo storytelling project viscerally portrays the impacts on generations’ old farming communities through the lenses of nationally-known photographers Karen Kasmausaki and Garth Lenz.
- Pennsylvania Citizens’ Toolkit: EIP has developed the “Pennsylvania Citizens’ Toolkit” to help citizens, advocacy groups, and elected officials become better informed about expanding oil and gas operations and the permitting approval process. The toolkit guides citizens through the basic components of the process, while providing information about how to be more engaged and prepared to fight back.