Pennsylvania

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DEP chief says he’s tried to change the tone at the agency

State Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Chris Abruzzo speaking at Widener Law.

Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

State Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Chris Abruzzo speaking at Widener Law.

State Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Chris Abruzzo says when he took charge of the agency nearly a year ago, he wanted to change its perception.

“There was this sense–at least publicly–we were very tight with information and not necessarily transparent in what we were doing.”

Speaking today at Widener Law in Harrisburg, Abruzzo says he’s tried to get the public more involved in the agency’s decision-making process.

He pointed to the recent series of public hearings across the state on new oil and gas regulations, as well as updates to the department’s website –including a biweekly newsletter and YouTube channel.

“No offense, our website looked like the Encyclopedia Britannica,” he said. “It was not dynamic. It did not engage the public. We’ve tried very hard to overhaul that website.”

Abruzzo took over as acting DEP Secretary last April, after former Secretary Mike Krancer stepped down to take a job at a Philadelphia law firm. Abruzzo had previously served as Governor Corbett’s deputy chief of staff. His professional career has primarily been focused on criminal law, not environmental issues.

He says he encourages DEP staff to be problem-solvers, by streamlining the permitting process, promoting consistency among its six regional offices, and conducting thousands of inspections of oil and gas sites.

“We can talk a good talk, but we’re walking the walk now at the agency,” he said. “We’re demonstrating to folks we are a scientific agency. We’re not worried about people coming in and learning more about our people or our facilities. We invite it.”

 

Comments

  • Fracked

    hmmmm, I have tried repeatedly to speak with Abruzzo regarding setbacks of homes and schools to gaswells and he will not talk to me. While John Hanger served as DEP head, he took my phone calls and answered the emails. I live in one of the most prolific gas ” plays” in the nation and Abruzzo will not return a phone call. As far as making info transparent? The DEP disclaimer on their info is a little hard to get past. Plod ahead and you can see how often fines are NOT imposed for repeat violations…Streamline the permitting process? What is quicker than the rubber stamp we have now? Oh, get rid of endangered species, habitat, wetlands, streams, and those houses? Can we get rid of a few more of those?

  • DEP (and BIOSLUDGE) STINKS!!!

    More political BS. DEP refuses to address the adverse health and environmental effects caused by the land application of biosolids (sewage sludge) on PA farms. They ignore the academic research and continue to rely on the biased literature that is sponsored by the company that processes and spreads this toxic waste.

    If you write to Secretary Abruzzo, it takes DEP several months to respond and then you get a bureaucratic reply that is completely unresponsive. Even when you submit photographic evidence of non-compliance (as I have done on several occasions), DEP will “talk” to the farmer, and “remind” him of the setback regulations. There is no meaningful enforcement action.

  • NorthernTier

    Important data not being released by the PA DEP in a timely manner … or at all.

    “2012 Air Emissions Data from Natural Gas Operations”
    This inventory is due from the operators annually, on March 1 of the following year. The initial, 2011, Inventory is the only one that has been released.
    http://www.dep.state.pa.us/dep/deputate/airwaste/aq/emission/marcellus_inventory.html

    “EncroachmentLocationsOilGas” PA DEP GIS shapefiles, released through PASDA
    These location files have been so *heavily* redacted that they are useless for mapping the extent of the impact of O/G operations on PA streams and wetlands. .
    ftp://www.pasda.psu.edu/pub/pasda/dep/

  • Julieann Wozniak

    I suppose that, since his predecessor branded all opponents of fracking as “terrorists” and “outside agitators” like a true authoritarian goon, the new guy is an improvement. Although his agency is still underfunded, understaffed, and is way to friendly with the industries it is supposed to regulate. Our air quality is still atrocious. Dunkard Creek is still seriously impaired. And lax regulation undoubtedly led to the well blast here in Bobtown. I doubt any of this will improve until the Governor is turfed out of office.

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