Tuesday, September 20, 2011

DEP Restructures To Focus More Attention On Marcellus Shale, Improve Efficiency

The Department of Environmental Protection Tuesday announced the biggest change to the agency's organizational structure in 16 years due in part on the need to more effectively regulate Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling.
Another major goal of the reorganization is to refocus the agency on its core mission-- to protect Pennsylvania's air, land and water from pollution and to provide for the health and safety of the public.
Over the last few years, the announcement said, the agency has strayed from that mission to take on responsibilities which took staff and funding away from inspections, permit reviews and taking compliance actions in basic pollution control programs.
“These organizational changes will enhance the department’s ability to protect Pennsylvania’s air, water and land, and also will result in a consistent and predictable regulatory system,” DEP Secretary Mike Krancer said.
Krancer said DEP will make decisions based on facts and sound science by providing enhanced, unified oversight to the natural gas industry; emphasizing the revitalization of brownfields; providing consistent, predictable decision-making; and delivering compliance assistance and pollution prevention education.
“This is an installment of delivering what Governor Corbett promised during the campaign; and I, along with the governor, am committed to protecting the environment and public health for the future of all Pennsylvanians by strictly and vigorously enforcing our environmental laws,” he added. “Our commitment to protecting our state’s environment remains as strong as ever.”
“I am directing agency management to analyze their operations and practices, so we can move to improve in that area, too,” Krancer said.
Summary Of Changes
A new Deputy Secretary of Oil and Gas Management will be created to manage Marcellus Shale drilling activities modeled in large part on the successful surface mining regulatory structure.
The change would mean permitting, inspection and compliance activities would still take place in field offices, but would be managed by a Bureau of District Oil and Gas Operations in Harrisburg rather than reporting to one of DEP's six Regional Directors just like mining. A separate Bureau of Oil and Gas Planning and Program Management reporting to the new Deputy would develop the policy and regulations needed to manage regulatory activities.
The existing Deputy for Mineral Resources Management would be renamed the Office of Active and Abandoned Mine Operations and refocused on regulating active surface and deep coal mines, industrial mineral mines and land restoration of abandoned mines as well as managing the Deep Mine Safety Program.
Activities related to the treatment of acid mine drainage from abandoned mines would be transfered to the Deputy Secretary for Water Management so activities related to the restoration of watersheds would be housed under one roof.
To make room for the new Deputy for Oil and Gas Management, the positions of Deputy Secretary for Community Revitalization and Local Government Support and the Deputy Secretary for Energy and Technology Development would be eliminated and their responsibilities assigned to other parts of the agency.
The primary responsibility for brownfields redevelopment from the Deputy for Community Revitalization as well as the Storage Tank Cleanup Program will be moved to a new Bureau of Environmental Cleanup and Brownfields under a slightly renamed Deputy for Waste, Air, Radiation and Remediation.
Under the prior organization, cleaning up waste sites under the state Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act, the federal Superfund Program and the Storage Tank Program were artificially separated from brownfields cleanup in two different offices. This change consolidates similar programs in the same office to improve efficiency.
Other programs assigned to the Deputy for Energy and Technology Development and some from the Deputy for Community Revitalization will now be supervised by the Special Deputy Secretary for External Affairs.
These programs include those for the State Energy Office, the Office of Environmental Advocate, the Office of Local Government Liaison, the Small Business Ombudsman and the Environmental Education Programs. The Special Deputy will be the point of contact for DEP's Citizens Advisory Council.
The Special Deputy will also be responsible for a refocused Office of Pollution Prevention and Energy Assistance supervising programs promoting pollution prevention, energy efficiency and compliance assistance.
The Climate Change Programs authorized by Act 70 of 2009 will be assigned to the Bureau of Air Quality since that office is charged with regulating greenhouse gas emissions under the federal program.
To help improve program coordination and consistency throughout DEP, a new Office of Program Integration will be created under the Executive Deputy Secretary for Programs. The new Office will be responsible for evaluating statewide program implementation, effectiveness and efficiency, developing metrics to measure progress and to provide oversight for special projects with department-wide significance.
Also to improve coordination between the current Deputy for Field Operations and DEP's six major regional offices, the reorganization will require central office programs to designate specific staff to answer questions and clarify policy for the regions so there is one consistent interpretation of programs across the state.
In addition to these changes, the Black Fly and West Nile Virus Control Programs will be moved to the Deputy for Water Management. They are now housed with the Deputy for Field Operations.
DEP said the reorganization will not involve any staff layoffs, unlike during the Rendell Administration when budget cuts forced DEP to eliminate 147 positions, including layoffs, and during the 1990-91 budget problems in the Casey Administration.
Coping With Budget Cuts
One of the unstated goals of the reorganization is to cope with the overwhelming $1.5 billion in cuts to environmental programs generally and the loss of over 600 positions in DEP specifically during the eight years of the Rendell Administration.
In addition to the cuts, about 100 DEP Air, Waste and Water Quality staff were required to used all or part of their time as managers for renewable energy project grants taking time away from permit reviews, inspections and compliance activities.
A DEP Reorganization webpage with a fact sheet on the reorganization and a new organizational chart are available online. A video interview with Secretary Krancer is also available.

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