HARRISBURG, PA - John Hanger has spoken.
Responding to a cascade of complaints from every sector of state and local governments for instituting a measure curtailing the role of local community conservation districts (CCD) in monitoring gas well drilling, Hanger, the newly appointed Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary, sent a generic letter to all conservation district managers defending his early spring action.
On March 18, DEP summarily made a decision to transfer responsibility for reviews and permit functions associated with oil and gas drilling and related activities from the CCDs to the DEP Regional Office Oil and Gas Management Program. The decision was arrived at without consultation of any conservation district, which was unprecedented.The letter detailed various reasons the action was taken. In summary, some of the reasons given were that combining the permit and inspection function to one agency “should lead to more protective and efficient regulations” and that by taking on these CCD functions, DEP inspection staff will be responsible for all aspects of gas operations, which would “create a more efficient and effective process that will better protect water resources.”
The statement said that the creation of a new regional office staff will make even stronger oversight and that this “cradle to grave responsibility will provide greater consistency for gas operators, as well as DEP’s overall regulatory responsibilities to safeguard the people’s right to clean water.”
The letter ended with this closing statement: “While Pennsylvania’s natural gas reserves could increase the supply of a clean burning fuel, with very important climate and air benefits and yield billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs for our communities and families, we will not compromise the state’s environmental regulations in the production of gas.”
For the complete story, including commissioner responses, click HERE.
Mr. Hanger appears to be making a clear statement of accountability on behalf of the environment here. We need to monitor the progress of drilling in the state of Pennsylvania carefully!