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Urgent Action: PA DEP Comment Period Ends Tues. 11/18

November 17, 2014

To protect those already harmed, and to protect our water, air, farms and food from fracking:

Please write Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection now! The PADEP comment period stays open through 5 pm this Tuesday, November 18th.

We need better oversight, all violations enforced, contaminated water restored! Proposed rules must be strengthened to help those harmed and make companies accountable for pollution.

From Delaware Riverkeeper Network:

Please tell DEP that when gas and oil operators violate the law, they pollute our environment, our drinking water, and our communities and they expose the public to negative health effects that can cause serious health problems and disease.  DEP’s proposed Standards and Guidelines for Identifying, Tracking, and Resolving Violations doesn’t provide the standards to accurately identify, thoroughly track, and rigorously enforce the laws that are meant to protect us and our water and air from the damages that accompany gas and oil development. 

Here are some of the issues:

We need more inspections, not less: Despite Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection‘s (DEP) acknowledgement of its responsibility to oversee gas and oil development to provide safety and protect the environment, DEP’s proposed inspection policy scales back on inspections from what is currently recommended in Pennsylvania law.  This, in the face of criticism for poor inspection performance that leaves communities and the environment vulnerable to pollution and degradation.

Make it top priority to promptly replace or restore contaminated water supplies:  DEP has way too much wiggle room in their response to water pollution complaints.  People who have impacted water supplies must be immediately helped, all violations promptly enforced, and clean water supplied to avoid adverse health effects and financial burdens to those harmed.

Let the public know: Information about complaints, violations, enforcements, and resolution of problems should be easily accessible to the public, not hidden or hard to get.  DEP is not disclosing important information through on-line platforms that are readily available and would help inform the public about what is happening.

Kick out bad actors: DEP proposes to suspend or revoke permits as an enforcement tool but too much is left to DEP’s discretion, not set in standards.  Also, they should prohibit future permits to operators who are repeat violators and use criminal investigation and prosecution for intentional violations or refusal to carry out corrective action.

If rules are broken, Notices of Violation must be issued:  DEP leaves too much decisionmaking up to the field inspector which has already led to inconsistent application of the law and can prolong noncompliance, as revealed by the PA Auditor General’s Special Performance Report.  

Recognize water contamination by oil and gas activities has many causes and they can occur over time:  DEP states that responsibility for water contamination is based on a “hydrologic connection” being established but that is too limited because there are many pollution pathways on well sites and related operations.  Also, there is no established ongoing monitoring of wells that were reported through the DEP complaint system, ignoring that pollutants may move at varying rates through groundwater and the natural environment.  Using too narrow a standard lets some polluters off the hook and can expose people to pollution and health risks.

For a copy of the proposed regulations: DEP ID: 550-3000-001 – Standards and Guidelines for Identifying, Tracking, and Resolving Oil and Gas Violations.

Act Now! Please send a letter to DEP commenting on the proposed inspection policy and related guidelines.  The subject line must say: “Comments on Standards and Guidelines for Identifying, Tracking, and Resolving Violations.”

The deadline for comments is the end of business day Tuesday, November 18. 

Feel free to use any and all of the above talking points in your comment. Even more important, please add your own personal thoughts because that is what most impresses regulators. 

How to comment: Email John Ryder, DEP Bureau of District and Oil and Gas Operations: ra-epoilandgas@pa.gov. For more information contact: John Ryder, 570-327-3636.

(To submit written comments by mail: John Ryder, Department of Environmental Protection, Bureau of District and Oil and Gas Operations, Rachel Carson State Office Building, 15th Floor, P. O. Box 8765, Harrisburg, PA 17105-8467.)

Thank you for speaking up!

2 Comments
  1. Jim permalink
    November 18, 2014 8:00 am

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