Is it political pressure, or common sense that once again prevails at Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection? The DEP is backpedaling on a policy change it made only a few short weeks ago that hamstrung inspectors in the Marcellus Shale and cast a jaundiced eye on DEP’s, then Acting Secretary, Michael Krancer. Krancer has since been appointed.
In mid March, DEP inspectors learned through a memo that they could no longer issue citations directly to gas companies. If they suspected drillers were violating environmental laws, they would first have to run their observations up the chain of command and wait for approval.
The DEP has turned the clock back on that policy and is once again giving inspectors the same authority they previously had.
Former DEP Secretary John Hanger was among the most vocal critics saying that it undermined confidence. Upon learning of the change in policy, Hanger told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “That’s a very welcome development. I’m glad to hear the directive has been rescinded.”
Environmental groups were plenty concerned that “handcuffed inspectors” would lead to loose enforcement and endanger the public’s health.
According to the Post-Gazette dozens of groups sent a letter to Governor Corbett in April asked him to terminate that policy.
Jan Jarett, the president and chief executive officer of Citizen for Pennsylvania’s Future told the Gazette, “the three-month pilot program amounted to backpedaling, and the department was not sensitive to how worried and concerned the public is about Marcellus Shale drilling issues,” Jarett said.
Last year, the DEP wrote 1,227 notices of violations.
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