Chemical, oil companies fear potential EPA rule will expose trade secrets

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"We pretty much are reiterating our concern that the data be protected and not divulged," she said. "Our members' concerns are release of information, both domestically and internationally as well."

Usually, the EPA decides what business information should be kept confidential on a case-by-case basis. A 2009 rule requiring greenhouse gas emissions reporting resulted in too much information for those decisions to be carried out in a timely manner. Since then, the agency has been working to set standards on what information should be kept confidential and what should be made public.

The EPA's rule has not yet been proposed, so it's impossible to tell what is in it. However the agency has previously asserted that data used in emissions equations are "emission data," which the Clean Air Act specifically prevents from being kept confidential.

Chemical and oil companies disagree.

They already report information about greenhouse gas emissions, but since 2010 they have opposed efforts to require the disclosure of data used to calculate those emissions.

On June 25, Gershman and other representatives from the chemical and energy industries met with officials from the EPA and the Office of Management and Budget to make their case.

That industry perspective should make it clear that requiring disclosure of data used in emissions calculations will hurt companies' bottom lines, Gershman hoped.

"There have been a number of industry folks that are concerned about this and I think we could best say that we're hopeful that EPA has listened to our concerns and the proposal contains some sort of path that would protect our trade secrets," she said.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has also weighed in on behalf of the companies.

In a 2010 letter to the EPA, the agency wrote that requiring public disclosure of confidential business information "may lead to collusion that harms consumers through higher prices, decreased quality, and decreased innovation. Therefore, the FTC recommends that the EPA treat data that is an input to emission equations as confidential." 

In addition to the American Chemistry Council, representatives from ExxonMobil, DuPont, Dow Chemical, Marathon Energy and Eastman Chemical Co. were at the June 25 meeting.

The EPA proposal was sent to the White House for a 90-day review in May.