Pennsylvania

Energy. Environment. Economy.

Topics

DEP

DEP: The Department That Regulates and Oversees Drilling

Background

Regulating natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale formation is one of many duties charged to the Department of Environmental Protection.  DEP is responsible for enforcing the state’s Oil and Gas Act, as well as state regulations on drinking water quality, air quality and the environmental health of rivers and streams.

The agency currently has a $135 million dollar state budget, with additional $215 million from the federal government. Its funding has steadily decreased over the last few budgets.

DEP divides the state into six regions, and operates 19 district offices.

Secretary Michael Krancer headed the department until April 2013. He now works for an influential Philadelphia law firm he worked for in the 1990′s. Krancer chairs Blank Rome’s Energy, Petrochemical and Natural Resources Practice.

StateImpact has reported that ethics filings show Blank Rome has given Governor Corbett and his wife, Susan over $15,000 in gifts since 2007.

Before his appointment, Krancer served as a judge on the state’s Environmental Hearing Board, which evaluates DEP rulings. He has also worked for Exelon, and two Philadelphia law firms. Krancer unsuccessfully ran for state Supreme Court in 2007. His father Ronald is a long-time supporter of Republican candidates, and donated $175,000 to Tom Corbett’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign.

The department’s Bureau of Oil and Gas Management employs about 80 well inspectors, who are funded through drilling permitting fees. DEP carried out about 5,000 inspections last year, and Krancer told the House Appropriations Committee the Department “[does] have enough ‘boots on the ground’ to get the job done,” but environmental critics argue the inspectors are underfunded and understaffed.

A proposed – but quickly scuttled – change in regulatory policy raised the ire of drilling opponents in early 2011. A leaked internal memo directed regional offices to forward notices of violation for drillers to the Harrisburg office for final approval. DEP officials quickly backtracked, calling the change a “pilot program,” and then scrapping it altogether.

Krancer has repeatedly dismissed environmentalists’ skepticism over the DEP’s willingness to regulate drillers. “We apply the law – that’s our job,” he told a Senate panel in early 2011.  Appearing on a WITF-TVcommunity forum in May 2011, he said, “I’m going to be an enforcement secretary. I want to leave that legacy. …We will enforce and we will come down hard when circumstances warrants us to do that. I’m dedicated to doing that.”

Chris Abruzzo took over as DEP secretary in April 2013.

Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

Chris Abruzzo took over as DEP secretary in April 2013.

Following Krancer’s departure in April 2013, Governor Corbett named his deputy chief of staff, Christopher Abruzzo, as interim replacement. He was confirmed as secretary by the state senate in December 2013.

Abruzzo’s professional background is as a prosecutor. He’s worked under Corbett for many years, as deputy chief of staff in the Governor’s office and before that, in the drug enforcement section of the Attorney General’s office.

Abruzzo’s confirmation hearing attracted controversy, after he told a senate committee that although he believes in man-mad climate change, he does not view it as harmful.

Latest Posts

State plans to give industry group $150K grant to study effects of gas drilling

The state Department of Environmental Protection has approved a $150,000 grant earmarked in the state budget for “independent research regarding natural gas drilling” to an industry-backed nonprofit organization. The funding was approved on a non-competitive basis– other groups were not able to apply for the money. The Pittsburgh-based Shale Alliance for Energy Research (SAFER PA) [...]

Pennsylvania DEP revamps effort to map abandoned oil and gas wells

Pennsylvania environmental regulators are embarking on a project to map about 200,000 abandoned oil and gas wells that are currently unaccounted for in state records, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.   Abandoned wells provide pathways for methane gas to seep to the surface, where it can, under the right settings, trigger explosions. However, as StateImpact Pennsylvania [...]

DEP publishes details on 248 cases of water damage from gas development

For the first time, Pennsylvania environmental regulators are publicly releasing documents about cases when natural gas operations have damaged private water supplies. A list of 248 incidents is now available on the Department of Environmental Protection’s website with links to the letters sent to homeowners when the agency determined their water well was impacted by [...]

Pennsylvania Environmental Regulators Reject Teen’s Climate Change Petition

Pennsylvania’s Environmental Quality Board has rejected a petition from a Westmoreland County woman to regulate carbon dioxide emissions. Ashley Funk was 18 years old at the time she sued the state to force the Department of Environmental Protection to take action on climate change. Funk, now 20 and a student at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, [...]

Report faults EPA for failing to regulate fracking with diesel

A new report out today reveals natural gas drillers could be using diesel to frack wells without the mandated federal permits. Unlike other chemicals used in gas drilling, Congress requires extensive oversight if diesel is present. The so-called Halliburton Loophole in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 exempts chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing from federal [...]

Southwestern Energy fined for drilling unpermitted wells in Bradford County

Southwestern Energy Production company will have to pay $128,031 for drilling five unpermitted Marcellus Shale gas wells in Bradford County. The state Department of Environmental Protection announced the fine today after the Houston, Texas company continued to drill even after the DEP issued a “notice of violation” in January 2013. Southwestern Energy has 229 active [...]

Pa. faults Chevron for lack of oversight, poor communication in fatal well fire

In a new report out today, the Department of Environmental Protection says Chevron was “too guarded” in its communication with state regulators and the media, and did not provide adequate information after a fatal well fire in southwest Pennsylvania. The DEP admits it is also to blame for the poor communication and that the agency did [...]

Pittsburgh Hosts Hearing on EPA’s New Greenhouse Gas Proposals

Global warming and climate change will be what everyone is talking about at a hearing today in Pittsburgh. The public forum is one of four meetings taking place across the country this week as the Environmental Protection Agency seeks input on their newly proposed rules to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the nation’s power plants. [...]

Pa. regulators document 209 cases of water damage from oil and gas operations

Pennsylvania environmental regulators have documented 209 cases where oil and gas operations negatively impacted water supplies since late 2007, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. The new tally from the state Department of Environmental Protection comes as Pennsylvania’s Auditor General’s Office releases a much-anticipated report faulting the agency for its response to drilling-related water complaints. The DEP plans [...]

Audit faults DEP response to gas drilling water complaints

Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection failed to adequately track and respond to public complaints about water quality related to natural gas development, according to a report released today by the state Auditor General’s Office. Auditors found the department lacking in eight key areas — citing it for sloppy record-keeping, lax oversight of drilling waste and [...]

About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »

Economy
Education