On Thursday, March 23rd, executive deputy secretary of the PA Department of Environmental Protection, John Hines, hit send on an unanticipated and regressive email memo ordering all Pennsylvania gas inspectors to stop issuing violations against drillers without prior approval from political appointee Michael Krancer.
The dramatic policy change will effectively suppress "Notice of Violations" (NOV) issuances and shift enforcement actions from professional inspectors to Governor Corbett's appointee DEP Secretary Michael Krancer. In the past two years, Pennsylvania DEP has issued more than 1600 violations to drillers in the Marcellus Shale, more than 1000 of which were identified "Most likely to harm the environment". Concentrating enforcement responsibilities and authority in senior level administrators cannot serve to protect the air and water; rather, it makes our environment less safe as these few administrators cannot keep pace with the gas boom.
For several years, gas drilling in PA has been ratcheting up and the DEP budget has been shrinking. Now operating with 60% of the funds the Ridge administration (yr 2000) spent, the agency should be providing inspectors the freedom to do their jobs as trained professionals without politically appointed administrators duplicating the work or, as many fear, giving industry a free pass.