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DEP Set To Do Over 40 Percent More Marcellus Shale Inspections This Year
March 16, 2011
Acting Department of Environmental Secretary Michael Krancer told the House Appropriations Committee today his agency is set to do over 7,200 inspections of Marcellus Shale natural gas wells this year, a 44 percent increase over last year. Krancer also said the first meeting of the Governor's Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission will be March 25 and the meetings will be open to the public. The meeting will be held in Room 105 Rachel Carson Building starting at 10:30.
Testing Water For Radioactivity From Drilling Wastewater: In response to a question about the New York Times articles on testing drinking water for radioactivity, Krancer said testing by his agency through its stream monitoring network showed nothing and DEP is requiring additional testing for radioactivity by drinking water and wastewater treatment plants. He said his agency makes decisions on facts not fears and the New York Times articles raised fears with few facts. Krancer also said DEP has promoted the recycling of drilling wastewater which is already done extensively by the industry. In addition, new requirements regulating the discharge of Total Dissolved Solids are in effect and will increase the agency's ability to deal with these issues.Marcellus Permit Fees, Well Inspections: Krancer noted DEP is on track to do about 7,200 Marcellus Shale natural gas well inspections this year, up from 5,000 last year and said Marcellus Shale well permit fee income is also expected to increase to about $15.5 million from $12.5 million this year giving the agency more resources for DEP inspection and enforcement activities. In response to a question about the need for more DEP inspectors for the Oil and Gas Program, Krancer said if there is a need for more staff, increases will be made in response to increased need.Rescinding Marcellus Shale Air Policy: In response to a question from Rep. Greg Vitali (D-Delaware) on rescinding a policy guiding DEP staff on how to regulate air emissions from facilities such as natural gas compressors, Krancer said the document was an interim guidance issued without public or even internal review and was a compilation of how decisions were made in this area and did not offer good guidance to staff. He said federal law requires decisions to be made on case-by-case basis and that's what the agency is going to continue to do. He said the agency will be looking at how not only that policy but others relate in a coordinated approach to regulating the industry.Marcellus Emergency Fund: Asked whether the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund would be an appropriate option for monies to deal with emergency cleanups from Marcellus Shale drilling operations rather than a severance tax on natural gas production, Krancer said he is certainly open to looking at all the options.Public Education On Marcellus Shale Issues: In response to a question about the need to educate the public about Marcellus Shale development, Krancer said he is looking at the role of DEP in educating the public on the facts on Marcellus Shale drilling. He noted the industry also has a responsibility in this area. He said he combats misinformation with facts and that's been his approach to many issues.
DRBC Authority Over PA Issues: In response to a question from Rep. Scott Hutchinson (R-Venango), Majority Chair of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, about what Pennsylvania gets for funding the Delaware River Basin Commission, Krancer expressed a concern over a recent decision by DRBC to extend the comment period for proposed drilling permit regulations which he said was unnecessary, but noted "if you are not at the table, you're on the menu" and Pennsylvania needs to be at the table advocating its position. Rep. Hutchinson said the state needs to take a look at that funding and is concerned about making decisions on the facts.Chesapeake Bay TMDL: In response to a question about Pennsylvania meeting the requirements of the recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Chesapeake Bay TMDL, Krancer said it is incumbent on Pennsylvania to control its own destiny to meeting those requirements. He noted, for example, Pennsylvania farmers have stepped up to the plate and are doing "amazing work" in reducing nutrients and sediments from farmland and the state has not been given enough credit for that. Krancer said EPA was most disappointed with the way the state is regulating municipal stormwater discharges through MS4 permits, however, he said, EPA does not fully recognize the state's municipal structure and as a result they are pushing solutions which will require "little bang for a big buck in terms of cost." Part of his approach on Chesapeake Bay issues, Krancer said he will be a strong advocate for Pennsylvania solutions.DCED Permit Acceleration: In response to a question about a line in the Governor's budget announcement about the Department of Community and Economic Development Secretary being given authority to speed up permit reviews in any state agency, Krancer said he felt this whole issue was overblown by stories in the media. He said this Governor expects all the agencies to work together under his guidance to "cooperation communicate and coordination," especially in this difficult economy on economic development projects. It has nothing to do with overriding existing law.Program/Permit System Efficiencies: Questioned about the adequacy of the budget for DEP and whether it will be enough to accomplish its mission, Krancer said his budget is adequate, but noted the agency is now reviewing its programs and especially its permitting process to deal with the permit backlog and other issues. When asked about uniform administration of DEP permit programs, Krancer said there is one DEP, not six DEPs, and it is his top priority to address this issue.
Federal Stimulus Funds In DEP Budget: Krancer, when asked about federal funding, said DEP's budget reflects the end of federal stimulus funds on alternative energy and other projects, like many agency budgets, and it does not represent a cut in state funding to programs like stories in the media has portrayed.Flood Control Funding: In response to a question about a $3.5 million reduction in the flood control project funding, Krancer said the reduction does not affect DEP's Dam Safety Program or funding for projects through the Capital Budget process. He said it will affect funding for some very localized projects which may or may not be funded by local sponsors, noting these are part of the tough budget decisions that need to be made.Delaware River Flooding: Rep. Mario Scavello (R-Monroe) said New York City's water reservoirs are now better than 100 percent full in the headwaters of the Delaware River and expressed concerns about the potential for flooding for Pennsylvania residents if some water is not released. He asked what DEP plans to do about the issue. John Hines, DEP Executive Deputy Secretary for Programs, said Pennsylvania is actively working with members of the Delaware River Basin Commission to manage flows to better protect residents from flooding, while at the same time ensuring flows protect aquatic resources and prevent the salt front from moving upstream in the Delaware Estuary at Philadelphia.Green Building Standards For State Projects: When asked whether he would support establishing a requirement that every state-funded building project meet a green building standard, Krancer said he would have to look at the specific legislative proposals.Improving DEP Website: In response to a question about the need to upgrade DEP's website to help legislators and the public answer questions about environmental issues, especially on Marcellus Shale, Krancer said he would welcome suggestions on how to improve the website.
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