Energy. Environment. Economy.



DEP: The Department That Regulates and Oversees Drilling


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

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 [...]

Budget may force Pa. back to square one on drilling regulations

Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection may have to go back to the drawing board in its two-year overhaul of drilling regulations, because the new state budget contains language changing the rules for oil and gas wells. Governor Corbett signed the legislature’s $29 billion spending plan yesterday. The new well regulations were among other items slipped [...]

Intersex fish found in three Pa. rivers; DEP sampling waterways

The LA Times reports the state Department of Environmental Protection has begun sampling waterways in response to a recent study by the U.S. Geologic Survey which found intersex fish in three Pennsylvania river basins. Male fish carrying eggs were found in the Delaware, Susquehanna and Ohio River systems. The USGS said the findings show that [...]

Pa. DEP reviewing thousands of comments on overhaul of drilling regulations

Pennsylvania environmental regulators are wading through more than 25,000 public comments on a proposed overhaul of the state’s oil and gas regulations. The Department of Environmental Protection says those comments could represent as many as 5,000 different suggestions for changes from the industry, environmental groups, and Pennsylvania citizens. The regulations would update Chapter 78 of [...]

New legislation would require monthly reports on Pa. shale gas production

A bill introduced in May by Rep. Tina Pickett (R) would require drillers in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale to report how much gas they’re producing on a monthly basis. Since 2010, Pennsylvania has required production reports to the Department of Environmental Protection twice a year. Landowners who want to verify what they’re getting from gas production on [...]

DEP increases gas well permit fees

The state Department of Environmental Protection is raising the permit fees gas companies pay for unconventional wells. The increase will raise an additional $4.7 million in revenue, which will be used to hire more staff in DEP’s office of Oil and Gas Management. “Under the Corbett administration, there has been a strategic, proactive approach to [...]

Corbett announces $12.5 million in renewable energy grants

Governor Corbett announced $12.5 million dollars will be available for grants and loans to fund renewable energy projects around the state. The grants will financed by the Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority for solar, wind, hydropower, and biomass projects. Funding will also be available for alternative energy fuels, manufacturing, and research. “This funding is an opportunity for [...]

DEP: Philadelphia region’s air quality is improving

Living in and around a major city, some amount of air pollution comes with the territory. But the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection says Philadelphia’s air is getting cleaner. One pollutant in particular has been a problem in the five-county region that stretches from Chester to Bucks. It’s called “fine particulate matter” or PM2.5 and [...]

Drillers, Pa. DEP look at recycling drill cuttings

Many drillers are already recycling the wastewater that flows back to the surface after fracking a well. Now, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association (PIOGA) wants the state Department of Environmental Protection to allow companies to reuse drill cuttings – rocks and dirt that are pried loose when a well [...]

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 »