DEP Centralizes Review Of Marcellus Shale Enforcement Actions
The Post-Gazette and other news outlets this week reported the Department of Environmental Protection has centralized the issuance of any Marcellus Shale-related enforcement and permit approvals, including notices of violations, with senior DEP management.
Internal emails to senior staff said those clearances would come from the Deputy for Field Operations, Executive Deputy for Programs and final clearance from the Secretary of DEP.
There has been a long-standing policy in DEP to provide senior managers notice of major, precedent setting and important actions related to permits and enforcement actions.
Katy Gresh, a DEP spokesperson, said the change in procedure was designed to help the agency bring consistency to its enforcement actions. She told the Post-Gazette, "During Secretary Krancer's meetings with legislators and his confirmation and budget hearings, one message he heard loud and clear is that constituents perceive there is in consistency at DEP.
"We want to ensure that as we regulate this industry, we are protecting the environment in every corner of the Commonwealth, and we believe this procedures for violation notifications will achieve that."
Gresh concluded by saying the directive will last for only three months.
In response to the new policy, several groups and legislators expressed concern about the change.
"This 'signoff policy' as it has been reported, is impratical and unacceptable," said Sen. Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne). "In my district, drilling is taking place in areas that are environmentally sensitive and in places close to critical watersheds. As more inspectors are deployed to monitor more drilling sites, I want to ensure there is comparable thoroughness to the inspections and consistent application of penalties for violations. Nothing in that suggests the need for any sort of upper-level clearance process."
"What we're seeing here is yet another step by the administration toward less accountability, less transparency, and a total lack of responsibility for ensuring that Marcellus shale gas drilling is properly regulated and public safety remains the priority," said Rep. Camille George (D-Clearfield), Minority Chair of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee. "This is going to backfire on the gas industry. I think we can have a vibrant Marcellus shale gas industry in Pennsylvania with one big caveat – it has to be done correctly with regulations and safeguards that are continually updated. We come across new challenges almost weekly."
"Even if one were to assume that Secretary Krancer has the best of intentions, this order will bring about an administrative traffic jam," said Sen. Jim Ferlo (D-Allegheny). "Harrisburg staff will be inundated with permit requests and violation notices for sites that they have not visited or even seen."
In a letter to President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) and Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware), Sen. Ferlo asked the Senate leaders to convene formal Senate hearings on the issue "since the change was not publicly vetted or discussed."
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