Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Groups React To Auditor General’s Report On Marcellus Shale Drilling Regulation

A number of groups issued statements in reaction to the Auditor General’s report Tuesday on regulating Marcellus Shale drilling by DEP.  Here is a sampling of those statements.
“While we commend the employees at DEP for their ongoing efforts to address the environmental impacts of Pennsylvania's natural gas drilling boom, it's clear that the Department is not keeping up with its statutory role,” said John Norbeck, vice president and chief operating officer of PennFuture. “The Auditor General noted in his report eight key findings that outlined, among other concerns, the Department's failure to issue administrative orders when violations occurred, effectively allowing the industry to police itself. Further, the report noted that the Department had no clear inspection schedule for gas wells, and evidenced a startling lack of transparency and accountability. When our citizens have greater access to information about kennel inspections and restaurant inspections than they do natural gas well inspections, we have a problem.”
“DEP is severely underfunded and understaffed at a time when the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania is experiencing substantial growth,” continued Norbeck. “The Corbett administration should be increasing agency staffing, not decreasing it, and ensuring that DEP employees have the necessary tools to do their jobs. Anything less is a failure of leadership. We are again issuing the call for a drilling tax that will allow for rigorous monitoring of the natural gas industry as it makes drillers more accountable for the inevitable environmental damage that will result from this industrial activity.”
“This report could not be clearer: DEP needs additional funding, more cops on the beat, and a robust monitoring system,” said Norbeck. “While other gas drilling states are pursuing world-class inspection standards, Pennsylvania is falling short. We can ill afford to let another extractive industry run roughshod over the Commonwealth. We cannot repeat the mistakes of the past, mistakes for which we are still paying dearly.”
"The Auditor General's inspection is not just a capture of deficiencies within the agency in present time but a call to the future to take actions that will improve agency policies & operations so that public confidence in the agency can be restored & we can better protect drinking water & public health", said Steve Hvozdovich, Marcellus Shale Policy Associate, Clean Water Action.
"For countless Pennsylvanians in the Marcellus and Utica, the Auditor General's findings come as no surprise. His frank assessment of the deficiencies within the DEP accurately tells the story of an agency that was unprepared to deal with shale gas development's impacts on our water supply and, by extension, our communities,” said Karen Feridun, founder of Berks Gas Truth
“The tenor of the agency's response included in the report is discouraging in its denial of many of the problems the Auditor General has cited and its misguided belief that it has satisfactorily addressed some of the other issues, particularly those dealing with transparency and public access to critical data," added Feridun.
“The Auditor General’s report is a sorely needed reality check by an independent office that knows how to perform a straightforward audit. This professional analysis of PADEP exposes the failings of the agency to effectively regulate the industry during this unprecedented shale gas rush that has gripped the Commonwealth. When you delve into the audit’s details of how and why the industry got ahead of government in Pennsylvania, lessons emerge that provide the guidance needed for critically needed reform at PADEP,” said Tracy Carluccio, Deputy Director, Delaware Riverkeeper Network.
"The auditor general has confirmed what Pennsylvania residents have long been saying and experiencing: the impacts of gas development are real, intense, and not being addressed," says Nadia Steinzor of Earthworks' Oil & Gas Accountability Project. "DEP and the legislature can start putting the public interest first by adopting the report's recommendations, dedicating more resources to enforcement, and working more closely with communities to solve problems than they do with industry," said Nadia Steinzor, Eastern Program Coordinator, Earthworks.
“The Auditor General confirmed what many outside observers have been saying --Pennsylvania residents who live in drilling areas face a significant risk because DEP, the agency tasked to protect them, is Ill-equipped to do so. Pennsylvanians deserve better,” said Tom Au, Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter.
“Finally the fundamental flaws in the DEP’s management of the impacts from shale gas development have come to light.  The Auditor General’s report vindicates the ever growing chorus of voices that have been calling on the DEP for years to reform its practices, and for sufficient funding for adequate staffing.  Having devoted significant resources to combat the impacts of water contamination, bureaucratic delay, and flawed information on the communities we serve, we hope this report sparks real change in shale extraction oversight,” said Nick Kennedy, Mountain Watershed Association.

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