Image: Nicholas T via flickr
Oil and gas companies are likely to face fewer violations as a result of a recent directive in Pennsylvania that essentially tells state inspectors to do their job slower.
Hundreds of enforcement actions are taken against oil and gas operators in the state every month, but they will all now need to be approved—individually—by the deputy secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, a politically appointed position. ProPublica has the scoop, and explains:
The memos are raising concerns that the state's environmental inspectors can no longer act independently and that regulations could be overridden by the political whims of the state's new governor, Tom Corbett.
ProPublica quotes John Hanger, former head of the DEP:
"It's an extraordinary directive. It represents a break from how business has been done in the department within the Marcellus Shale and within the oil and gas program for probably 20 years.
"It's on its face really breathtaking and it is profoundly unwise. I would urge them to rethink and rescind."
DEP denies any conflict of interest and says enforcement will not be affected. However, the governor is a known supporter of drilling. The environment, not so much. Last month, ProPublica writes, "he gave C. Alan Walker, a former coal industry executive and longtime opponent of environmental regulations, authority to overwrite permitting decisions at the DEP in order to encourage economic development."
More on the politics of fracking:
New York Governor Orders Moratorium on Fracking, But It's Only Sort of Good News
Pennsylvania Township Bans Fracking Wastewater Disposal - Defies State Government
Debate Over Fracking Rages Across the U.S.: Gas Drilling Deal Cancelled in Upstate New York, Drinking Water Undrinkable in Wyoming
And the health effects of fracking:
New York Times Reveals Secret Fracking Documents That Show Undisclosed Levels of Radiation In Drinking Water
Natural Gas Drilling Harms Eyes, Causes Tumors, Destroys Air: The Ugly Truth Behind the 'Natural' Energy Source
Natural Gas Far Less Green Than Claimed - Fracking Emissions 1000s Times Higher Than Reported: EPA
Split Estate: How Fracking Takes Land Away From Its Owners