DEP discloses Marcellus drilling permits issued with as little as 35 minutes’ scrutiny
The Associated Press is reporting that Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) workers spend as little as 35 minutes per permit on natural gas drilling permits, “and the regulators say they do not give any additional scrutiny to requests to drill near high-quality streams and rivers even though the waterways are protected by state and federal law.”
From Michael Rubinkam’s Associated Press article;
“Reporting by the AP suggests that applications are rubber-stamped, rushed through with little scrutiny and rarely rejected. The staffers’ statements indicate that DEP regulators are overburdened , and possibly ignoring environmental laws , as they struggle to deal with an unprecedented drilling boom that has turned Pennsylvania into a major natural gas player and raised fears about polluted aquifers and air.”
“The depositions of four DEP staffers responsible for processing permits , taken in late March (as part of a lawsuit filed by residents and environmental groups over a permit that DEP issued for an exploratory gas well in northeastern Pennsylvania, less than a half-mile from the Delaware River and about 300 feet from a pristine stream) and filed with a regional water agency this week , reveal that:
-The agency doesn’t consider potential impacts on legally protected high-quality watersheds, beyond checking that wells meet minimum setbacks required of all gas wells in the state.
-They don’t consider the cumulative impact of wide-scale development of wells in a concentrated area.
-They appear to have a fuzzy understanding of laws that are supposed to govern their work. A supervisor was unable to define the requirements of a key anti-degradation regulation that says pristine waterways ‘shall be maintained and protected,’ while a geologist said he didn’t know that streams and rivers legally designated as ‘high quality’ or ‘exceptional value’ are entitled to an extra layer of protection.”
“What these depositions reveal is that the state is doing next to nothing in approving permits, even in the Delaware River basin, even in high quality watersheds, even in the wild and scenic river corridor,” Jordan Yeager (plaintiffs’ attorney) told The Associated Press. “All together, they are spending less than 35 minutes in approving these $5 million industrial sites that have the ability to pollute the water that’s relied upon by (millions of) people. It is unconscionable.”