Pennsylvania

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Krancer’s Top 5 EPA-Bashing Letters

DEP Secretary Michael Krancer takes notes during a May presentation

Yesterday we told you about the blunt, confrontational letters Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Krancer fires off to the Environmental Protection Agency when he feels the EPA is in the wrong.

Here are five excerpts from the dozen letters Krancer has written to the federal agency. (StateImpact Pennsylvania obtained these documents through a Right-To-Know request.)

Date: April 6, 2011
To: EPA Regional Administrator Shawn Garvin
Topic: Drilling Waste and Pennsylvania Rivers

 

In February 2011, the New York Times published a story about natural gas drilling-waste being deposited into Pennsylvania rivers.  Alarmed, the EPA asked Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection for information about the municipal waste water facilities receiving and treating fracking fluid. Krancer felt the EPA was short-changing Pennsylvania’s protective efforts.

We are guided by sound science and the facts. In that regard, we continue to agree with Steve Heare, head of EPA’s Drinking Water Protection Division, when he stated, “I have no information that states aren’t doing a good job already [regulating fracking].” Again, based on current data and facts here in Pennsylvania, any backtracking from that statement would be, in my opinion, unjustified. DEP has been and continues to aggressively refine its regulation, guidance, and policies addressing oil and gas drilling, associated waste management, treatment, and disposal, as well as increasing its field presence in the areas of inspection and enforcement. Unfortunately, your letter, along with the recent New York Times articles, overlooks DEP’s strong and ongoing efforts to protect the environment and public health.

Date: May 27, 2011
To: Shawn Garvin
Topic: The EPA approving Pennsylvania’s mining permits

In 2010, the EPA began checking and approving the water-related coal mining permits Pennsylvania issues. Since the early 1980s, the agency had left these permits to the state. The change angered Krancer, who argued the justification behind the federal backstopping “do not reflect an appropriate level of scientific basis.”

I am writing to express the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) dismay regarding the unnecessary and overreaching review by your agency of mining-related National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits in the Commonwealth. This involvement has resulted in unnecessary increases in permit review timeframes with no environmental benefit.

As you know, EPA delegated the NPDES permitting program to the Commonwealth in 1984. Pennsylvania’s almost three decade old delegated program is very robust and has been recognized by the EPA for its excellence on many occasions. Indeed, our state’s NPDES program is the envy of many other states. This significant shift in EPA behavior and policy toward NPDES permits in this particular area is disconcerting since this elevated scrutiny by EPA has little or no environmental or scientific basis and is contrary to almost three decades of past relationship between EPA and DEP. Furthermore, this additional review by EPA seems to be beyond EPA’s administrative staffing capabilities to review such permit applications in a timely manner.

May 26, 2011
To: EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson
Subject: EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan

Krancer thinks federal guidelines limiting the amount of solid waste making its way into the Chesapeake Bay watershed are too expensive. On top of that, he thinks the EPA is continually ignoring Pennsylvania’s input on setting the new requirements. He made those points clear in a May 2011 letter to EPA administrator Lisa Jackson:

Pennsylvania is concerned with aspects of the TMDL issued by EPA in December 2010, and the application of the Chesapeake Bay watershed TMDL to the municipal stormwater sector in particular. We do not think EPA’s approach to this sector will achieve the goals even if the municipalities could implement and afford it, which they cannot. The urban stormwater sector is identified as contributing only approximately 6% of the problematic load. EPA contractors have estimated that it will cost municipalities $5.3 billion dollars to address the problem. This extraordinary cost is simply not reasonable, not cost effective and not likely to result in significant needed environmental gains and comes at a time when local governments are in significant economic distress.

…PADEP and our municipality stakeholders have been frustrated with EPA’s continued failure to acknowledge the challenge of Pennsylvania’s unique municipal structure – which results in Pennsylvania having more regulated Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems than any other state and one sixth of the nations total with nearly 1,000 as of the 2000 census. PADEP has also been further disheartened and frustrated by the lack of support and acknowledgement by EPA of Pennsylvania’s strong stormwater management program.

July 6, 2011
To: Shawn Garvin
Subject: Chesapeake Bay

About a month later, Krancer wrote EPA’s regional administrator to tell him he felt disrespected.

While EPA has stated that it wishes to share information in an open dialogue, this is contradicted by the agency’s continued actions. The most recent instance became apparent on June 23 when my staff participated in a conference call with EPA and other Chesapeake Bay states. Not only did we learn at that time that your agency scheduled a call with the state Secretaries for the following day, we were also informed about unreasonable timeframes and procedures going forward. While the mutual goal of restoring the Chesapeake Bay is a priority for everyone, scheduling meetings with less than 24-hour notice does not allow proper attention to critical issues that have long-term impacts.

January 5, 2012
To: Lisa Jackson
Subject: EPA’s Dimock Investigation

This is probably the most notable Krancer-EPA letter. It came after the agency decided to investigate water quality in Dimock, Susquehanna County. Krancer questions the EPA’s understanding of hydraulic fracturing, and raises questions about its methods in previous drilling investigations.

We, in Pennsylvania, would like to see EPA’s efforts geared toward a cooperative, science-based, and peer-reviewed analysis. I have read Governor Mead’s letter to you dated December 20, 2011, regarding the technical, scientific, and cooperative shortcomings of EPA’s activities with respect to Pavilion but there is no need to further discuss those issues in this letter. Suffice it to say, we hope that EPA’s efforts in Pennsylvania are not marked by the same rush to conclusions and other deficiencies as occurred at Pavilion. Like Governor Mead, I ask for your commitment that EPA will cooperate with Pennsylvania’s experts in this process. I also ask for a full and candid exchange of information as between EPA and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and that your efforts be guided by sound science and the law instead of emotion and publicity.

We realize and recognize that EPA is very new to all of this and the EPA’s understanding of the facts and science behind this activity is rudimentary. Fortunately, Pennsylvania is not new to all of this and we have a long history of experience at overseeing and regulating oil and natural gas extraction activities in our state, including hydraulic fracturing.

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