Appalachian Basin

Three Key Flaws in Anti-Fracking Activists’ EPCRA Claims

This week, a group of known activists and paid staffers led by Teresa Mills, from Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ) and Melissa English, from Ohio Citizen Action announced a coordinated effort to question the U.S. EPA once again on the Emergency Planning Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA).

EID has reported on this issue several times – and the continued misinformation drags on with activists’ latest attempt to distort the truth.

Just as a refresher, Teresa Mills initially filed a complaint to the U.S. EPA in March of 2013.  EPA’s response to that complaint sent the anti-fracking community into the spin zone, with headlines by Sierra Club and others pushing an all-out campaign to mislead the public on what the statute actually says as it pertains to EPCRA. This latest spin attempt is the most outrageous yet, with a blatant disregard for fact.

Let’s take a look at three of the key flaws from their press release followed by the facts.

Flaw # 1: “The federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) states that authority to accept hazardous chemical information and respond to chemical accidents resides with the State Emergency Response Commission (SERC), as well as local emergency planning committees and fire departments. Indeed, every other chemical-intensive industry in the state reports to SERC and SERC coordinates and plans emergency response for them.”

Fact: States were given the flexibility to implement the EPCRA program as necessary to meet the goals of the state so long as the program meets, at minimum, the federal requirements. Further, EPCRA applies to ALL industries, including the oil and gas industry.

Flaw #2: “The groups point out sections of existing Ohio law (ORC 1509.231) and proposed legislation (2014’s HB 490) that it says allows ODNR to, “…adopt a new and separate program tailored exclusively for its patrons in the oil and gas industry.”  The group alleges that ODNR is “captured” by the industry it regulates and  “…routinely ignores and ridicules the concerns of sensible citizens regarding fracking while reflexively repeating the industry’s public relations talking points on this important subject…”.”

Fact: First of all, let us point out that when this group decided to put together their latest dubious claims, they did not link the actual language of HB 490. Why? Because here’s what it actually says:

Ensure that the information submitted for the database will be made immediately available to the emergency response commission, the local emergency planning committee of the emergency planning district in which a facility is located, and the fire department having jurisdiction over a facility; (3) Ensure that the information submitted for the database includes the information required to be reported under section 3750.08 of the Revised Code and rules adopted under section 3750.02 of the Revised Code. (C) As used in this section, “emergency planning district,” “facility,” and “fire department” have the same meanings as in section 3750.01 of the Revised Code. HB 490, 1509.231

Flaw #3: “Despite being the current custodian of fracking chemical information, ODNR’s Division of Oil and Gas didn’t arrive at the scene until 3 days after the fire broke out and failed to share trade secret chemical information with other state and federal emergency responders until 2 days after that.”

Fact: EPCRA requires reporting within 60 days. However, first responders had Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) the same night as the incident in question. MSDS sheets were created through Ohio statute in SB 315, which was the nation’s first combined well construction and hydraulic fracturing chemical disclosure requirement.

The select groups outlined in this press release continue to drive campaigns to mislead the public.  Fortunately, Ohioans are people who care more about the family farm that was saved in Carroll County, or the transformation that has occurred by saving and creating thousands of jobs in rural Ohio, than the misguided agenda of a few groups.

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