Environment Canada is reviewing the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) reporting requirements for oil and gas activities in Canada, including the reporting of substances released during hydraulic fracturing.

The NRPI is a legislated, publically accessible inventory of pollutant releases to air, water and land. It captures data on over 300 substances of concern, including many substances declared as toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA).

Under CEPA, the federal Minister of Environment issues a notice each year to require facilities to report information for the purpose of creating the inventory of data. The data is then made available for free to the public on the internet. The annual notice specifies the chemicals which need to be reported and sets minimum quantities for reporting. As such, the NPRI does not require reporting on all pollutants in Canada or require information from all facilities.

Although some sectors of the oil and gas industry currently report, such as the oil sands sector, many operators of oil and gas batteries, compressor stations and gas gathering systems are not required to report because their emissions are below the NPRI minimum reporting thresholds. Also, exemptions currently exist for oil and gas exploration and drilling, and the NPRI does not require the reporting of certain releases of substances under the ground, such as occurs during hydraulic fracturing or enhanced oil recovery.

Environment Canada has recently announced that it is undertaking a review of the NPRI reporting requirements for the oil and gas industry. The review will look at the perceived gaps within the NPRI data for the oil and gas industry and the factors contributing to those gaps. The review will include consideration of whether the current exemption which does not require the reporting of releases of substances underground during hydraulic fracturing, as well as the broader exemption from reporting releases from oil and gas exploration and drilling, should continue.

Environment Canada has promised to consult with industry and the public during the review. The review is anticipated to be completed in 2015.