The Observer-Reporter’s Feb. 20 editorial, “DEP owes complete disclosure to citizens” misses a few key points. This administration takes water quality investigations very seriously. In fact, it was Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration that levied a more than $1 million penalty, the largest single fine in the history of Pennsylvania’s oil and gas program, against a driller in a case involving methane migration.
Our highly trained, expert team at DEP knows exactly what they are doing in oil and gas investigations and tests for exactly what is needed to make a determination based on sound science, not political rhetoric or scare tactics. Our Bureau of Laboratories was given high praise in a recent peer review by an independent public health association, and our oil and gas program was found to be “well-managed and professional” by another independent review body. This agency’s staff, which has responded to each and every complainant who testified at the recent policy hearing, and who responds to every complaint we receive, have decades of experience. Their integrity and work ethic cannot be questioned.
When our expert, technical staff conducts investigations, they must make decisions based on facts and data gathered and verified using approved methodologies. In these cases, DEP’s obligation is to determine if oil and gas drilling impacted water supplies, and that is exactly what we do. Data that is not important to answering that question is not validated by professional laboratory procedures, and DEP is not responsible to provide unvalidated data to a homeowner.
Thanks to Act 13, we have even more tools to penalize drillers who break the law and we also have better environmental standards in place to protect groundwater. State Rep. Jesse White, D-Cecil, voted against Act 13, which, in addition to providing more than $204 million in impact fee money, of which Washington County saw more than $4 million, also provided millions more to individual municipalities. Every Pennsylvanian is benefiting from Act 13, and DEP is making sure that drilling in Pennsylvania happens safely and responsibly.
Gresh is the communications director for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.