Pennsylvanians now surely must question who’s in charge of policing gas drillers in the Marcellus Shale. Inspectors with the Department of Environmental Protection can no longer issue citations to companies without getting prior approval from new DEP Secretary Michael Krancer.
It’s a shift in policy unlike no other, and sets into motion a conflict of interest that will draw in Governor Tom Corbett, who is closely tied to the gas and oil industry. Corbett’s administration says the governor did not have a hand in it, or influence the change.
John Hanger, the former DEP Secretary under Governor Ed Rendell, summed it up this way to the Inquirer, “the extraordinary policy was akin to a forcing a highway trooper to get approval from the head of the state police before writing a ticket.”
Hanger says there has never been a directive such as that one, and as far as Rock The Capital knows no other state’s department of environmental protection operates under such a policy.
“It is a complete intrusion into the independence of the inspection process,” said Hanger.
Krancer’s policy took effect last week. Inspectors learned of the momentous change through an email that was forwarded by John Hines, DEP’s executive deputy secretary. It said in part that all, “final clearance” must go through Krancer, and “any waiver from this directive will not be acceptable.”
Inspectors wrote roughly 800 citations to drillers working in the Marcellus during 2010, and companies have always had the right to appeal “notice of violations.” Environmentalists and DEP’s own inspectors contend the new edict will have a chilling effect.
Penn Environment Director David Masur told the Inquirer, “why would I deal with the ticky-tacky local DEP guy who wrote the notice of violation?” Masur continued, “I’ll just go to his boss and tell him to call off the dogs.”
One DEP Inspector speaking to the Inquirer on the condition of anonymity said its a “backdoor way to castrate the regulations.”
And while the official reason behind the change is apparently over inconsistencies in the way those notices are written the subject had never come up for a discussion at DEP.
“Not a single person in my office believes this is about ensuring uniformity,” the inspector told the Inquirer.
The DEP has not returned Rock The Capital’s email or phone call requesting an interview with Secretary Krancer.
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