Thursday, August 23, 2018

Auditor General DePasquale To Review Progress On 2014 Oil & Gas Water Protection Audit Recommendations

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale Thursday said he will evaluating how well agencies were implementing recommendations his office made on improving 9 different programs, including in a 2014 audit of DEP's Oil and Gas Program regulations on protecting drinking water and responding to citizen complaints.
“These reports touched the lives of all Pennsylvanians and I owe it to them to find out where these programs currently stand,” DePasquale said.  “Choosing not to implement audit recommendations has consequences for the people who rely on these programs.”
“The dedicated, hard-working staff at DEP during that time were hampered in doing their jobs by a lack of resources,” DePasquale said. “As I said at the time, it was almost like firefighters trying to put out a five-alarm fire with a 20-foot garden hose.”
The DEP audit covered the period of 2009 through 2012 and was launched by DePasquale in January 2013 immediately after he became Auditor General. The audit’s purpose was to assess DEP’s ability to protect the water quality in the wake of greatly escalated shale gas well drilling.
Of the eight audit findings and 29 recommendations to improve DEP’s monitoring of potential water quality impacts of shale gas development, DEP disagreed with all audit findings, but conversely agreed with 22 of the 29 recommendations, indicating that there is some acknowledgement on DEP’s part that it must improve.
DEP’s point by point response to the audit is available online.
Among the recommendations, auditors encouraged DEP to:
-- Always issue an administrative order to a well operator who DEP has determined adversely impacted a water supply-- even if DEP used the cooperative approach in bringing the operator into compliance or if the operator and the complainant have reached a private agreement;
-- Develop better controls over how complaints are received, tracked, investigated, and resolved;
-- Invest resources into replacing, or significantly upgrading, its complaint management system;
-- Find the financial resources to hire additional inspectors to meet the demands placed upon the agency;
-- Implement an inspection policy that outlines explicitly the requirements for timely and frequent inspections;
-- Create a true manifest system to track shale gas waste and be more aggressive in ensuring that the waste data it collects is verified and reliable;
-- Reconfigure the agency website and provide complete and pertinent information in a clear and easily understandable manner;
-- Invest in information technology resources and develop an IT structure that will ensure its oil and gas program has a strong foundation for the ongoing demands placed upon it; and
--  Develop an all-electronic inspection process so that inspection information is accurate and timely to DEP—and more importantly—public stakeholders.
Click Here for a copy of the 2014 audit.
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