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Friday, April 1, 2011

Punishments of Shale drillers now need OK from top

Here is the proof that Pennsylvania Tom Corbett is part of the Marcellus Shale Goon Squad!!! Any EPA violation reports cannot be issued independently of Corbett's goon squad thugs. Krancer, one of the goons in the Corbett cabinet, donated big money to Corbett campaign. 

Michael Krancer, the Secretary of Environmental Protection nominee, did not donate, but his relatives gave $206,750 (Pittsburgh Post Gazette, January 17, 2011).

Punishments of Shale drillers now need OK from top from Business Week by Marc Levy 3-31-11

Approval of enforcement actions and punishments aimed at Marcellus Shale drilling operators must now go through top officials in the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection in a change that the agency said Wednesday is aimed at improving its consistency in handling the rapidly growing industry.
Acting Secretary Michael Krancer is changing the procedure after receiving complaints that agency staff in different regions of Pennsylvania were carrying out their responsibilities unevenly, a department spokeswoman said.
The new policy covers a variety of enforcement actions that can require a company to pay a fine or correct a problem, spokeswoman Katy Gresh said. In some cases, those matters reach top officials. But the policy also covers notices of violation -- which Krancer's predecessor, John Hanger, equated to a traffic ticket making its way up to the chief of police and said it represents an encroachment onto the professional independence of the agency's inspectors.
The policy applies strictly to Marcellus Shale-related drilling activity, and not to any other activities that the agency also inspects across six regions, including mining, construction, water and sewer treatment, power generation and medical X-rays.
Gresh said the week-old policy may be only temporary.
"We need to make sure we are consistent and that we make our best effort to be the most effective regulator of this industry, which will benefit all Pennsylvanians," Gresh said.
Gov. Tom Corbett, whose successful campaign last year received sizable donations from members of the natural gas industry, has said he wants to make Pennsylvania the Texas of the natural gas boom. Pennsylvania is the largest natural gas state not to tax the activity, and Corbett is against imposing a new tax on it.
Notice of the change surrounding the hotly pursued natural gas formation wasn't announced publicly. Rather, a March 23 email from a top department official ended up in the hands of reporters.
In the email, the department's regional directors and the director of the bureau of oil and gas management were instructed to seek approval for actions involving Marcellus Shale drilling from two top agency deputies, with final clearance from Krancer.
"Any waiver from this directive will not be acceptable," wrote John Hines, the agency's executive deputy secretary.
On Wednesday, Hanger called the change to longstanding practice "ill-advised."
"I can't think of anything more likely to erode public confidence in the inspection process than this," Hanger said. "I urge them to rethink and reconsider."
Hanger said it oversteps the built-in checks and balances that give every company the ability to contest a notice of violation by responding in writing, asking for a meeting with regional staff to discuss it, appealing a decision to the Environmental Hearing Board and even going to court.
If there are complaints about consistency, the best way to handle those complaints is to carry out a management-level review of consistency and then train staff, if necessary, Hanger said.
"The idea that the secretary himself and the deputy secretary would presumably review, literally hundreds if not thousands of (notices of violation) before they were issued, when they were not on the site, they didn't do the inspection, is incredible," Hanger said. "It's a new full-time job for the secretary, is what's going to happen."

Harrisburg takes reins for Marcellus enforcement
Thursday, March 31, 2011
Field inspectors and regional directors for the state Department of Environmental Protection have been told they must obtain approval from DEP Secretary Michael Krancer before issuing permits or enforcing regulations pertaining to Marcellus Shale drilling, according to internal department memos.

The new rules requiring preapproval by officials in Harrisburg even extend to routine matters such as notices of violations that previously were issued by inspectors and their regional directors.
Jan Jarrett, president and chief executive officer of Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future, a statewide environmental group active on Marcellus issues, said the new procedures "make a joke out of inspections."

"When they see violations, they have a duty to write them up, but now they must first run them up the chain of command to get a political OK," she said. "It completely undercuts the independence and professionalism of the inspectors."

Word of the major procedural change, which was not publicly announced, was emailed March 23 to DEP regional directors and the director of its Oil & Gas Bureau by John Hines, DEP executive deputy secretary.

The email directs them, "effective immediately," to take no final action involving Marcellus Shale drilling before getting "final clearance" from Mr. Krancer, an attorney from Bryn Mawr who was appointed to his position in January by Gov. Tom Corbett.

Permitting and enforcement actions also must be preapproved by Mr. Hines and Dana Aunkst, who this month was appointed acting DEP deputy secretary for field operations.
Katy Gresh, a DEP spokeswoman, characterized the move as a procedural change and said that it was designed to help the agency bring consistency to its enforcement actions.
"During Secretary Krancer's meetings with legislators and his confirmation and budget hearings, one message he heard loud and clear is that constituents perceive there is inconsistency at DEP.

"We want to ensure that as we regulate this industry, we are protecting the environment in every corner of the commonwealth, and we believe this procedure for violation notifications will achieve that," Ms. Gresh said.

The new policy was widely criticized internally by staff at DEP, so much so that Mr. Aunkst needed to send a follow-up email to the regional directors March 24 apologizing for the "significant confusion and consternation" it caused but not backing off any of the new requirements.

John Hanger, who was DEP secretary during the last two years of the Rendell administration, called the policy change "exceptionally unwise."

He predicted it would cause the public to lose faith in the state's ability to fairly and independently regulate development of the Marcellus Shale gas reserves.

"This can do nothing but crater public confidence in inspections and oversight of the industry," Mr. Hanger said. "It will not benefit the industry, which will be the biggest loser because it needs the authentic, independent and professional inspections and oversight to maintain confidence in the industry. This intrusion into longstanding professional practices by political appointees is the opposite of what should be happening."

The policy puts political appointees in direct control of permit issuance and enforcement actions. Between January 2008 and June 2010 DEP inspectors issued 1,400 notices of violation at Marcellus Shale gas drilling sites.

Mr. Hanger said that if the new policy was done for legitimate oversight or coordination reasons, it would apply to all of the department's inspections, and that an appeal process is already in place. All violations can be appealed to the Environmental Hearing Board.
He said the changes would "chill" enforcement efforts.

"Anyone who says otherwise is not being honest," Mr. Hanger said. "The new policy tells the inspector that he's going to be second-guessed from a distance by individuals not familiar with the site. It's 180 degrees from where things ought to stand."

He also theorized that such a policy change probably wouldn't be done without the direct involvement or support of Mr. Corbett's office.

The governor's office by late afternoon had not returned Post-Gazette calls seeking comment on the regulation and Mr. Hanger's remarks.

Ms. Gresh said, however, that the governor's office was not involved in the policy change.
"It did not come from the governor," Ms. Gresh said. "The governor's office did not have a hand in this."

Don Hopey: dhopey@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1983.


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