School Closings & Delays

Report Finds DEP Comes Up Short On Gas Drilling

HARRISBURG — A report out Tuesday from the Pennsylvania Auditor General slams the Department of Environmental protection for how it’s handled the natural gas industry.

The report found the DEP wasn’t ready for the industry when it started drilling in the state and it’s not ready now.

The auditor general said state environmental regulators need help. He said the DEP is understaffed and underfunded and that 150-plus page report on the state’s handling of gas drilling points out eight ways the agency is coming up short in protecting the environment and the people of this Commonwealth.

From the time that natural gas companies started drilling in the Northern Tier and across the state, a new report claims the state agency that should be regulating the natural gas industry has come up short.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale released the report at the State Capitol in Harrisburg after his agency looked into the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection between 2009 and 2012.

“DEP is underfunded, understaffed and inconsistent in how it approached shale gas development. For an analogy, internally we believe it’s like firefighters trying to put out a five-alarm fire with a 20-foot garden hose,” DePasquale said.

Among other things, the report claims the DEP didn’t always hold gas drillers accountable for damage to water supplies, and that the DEP’s complaint tracking system was lacking.

Sheila Ely and her family live in the Dimock area of Susquehanna County and have dealt with the DEP quite a bit in the past six years. Concern over a nearby natural gas well contaminating the Ely’s drinking water well has led to what’s in their shed, removing dangerous methane gas.

“How did DEP respond? They kept telling us there was nothing wrong with our water. It was just high in methane,” Ely said.

Sheila and her nephew Scott Ely, who still has a lawsuit against Cabot Oil & Gas, believe the report accurately depicts the shortcomings of the DEP, especially when it comes to explaining the results of investigations into problems with their water they say were caused by the gas industry.

“Politics got in the way of taking care of the people. That’s what they’re supposed to be there for, the people,” Scott Ely said.

The DEP disagreed with all eight findings in that auditor general’s report.

A statement from the agency says it is already implementing many of the 30 or so recommendations made by the auditor general.

“For the past 16 months, we’ve cooperated fully with the Auditor General’s Office and we appreciate the professionalism shown by their staff,” DEP Secretary E. Christopher Abruzzo said in a press release. “As we’ve explained to the auditors, because the report focused on the time period up until the end of 2012, most of this audit reflects how our Oil and Gas Program formerly operated, not how the program currently functions.

Some environmental groups said Tuesday the report only supported their position over the past several years that the DEP has fallen short of its duty.

I am very encouraged by the Auditor General’s clear sight and plain spoken sensible  findings and recommendations – tracking complaints, violations, waste handling, among other things and website improvements so ordinary mortals can find material all point to the Auditor General being concerned about the people of PA – as the PA DEP should be, but seems to not be.

- Barbara Arrindell
Director, Damascus Citizens for Sustainability

Today’s AG report is a much-needed validation of the message that RDA and many
other citizen’s groups across the state have been proclaiming for several years.
Although our message has been vilified by many media sources, public office holders, and local Chamber of Commerce officials,
we have not wavered. This substantiation from AG DePasquale is most welcome.

- Barbara Jarmoska

Board of Directors, Responsible Drilling Alliance

18 comments

  • JP

    No one was prepared for the explosion that became the Marcellus Shale, not the legislators, government agencies, nor the general public in the northern tier; so it would take time for all parties to get in the loop so to speak. DEP shouldn’t be faulted entirely as the citizens voted in the people that run Harrisburg. Before people open their mouth “MDOG” and similar maybe you should figure out the facts and put the blame where it is really due.

    • mdog

      I wonder if such said agency employees may have relations who benefit greatly
      from non-action? So happens if i can prove it does you bet i will report this.
      Now SWEAT cause i will. Sorry im no tree hugger ive taken many and made nice
      furniture and even a spear or two.

  • wayne

    IF I AM CORRECT—-GO BACK A FEW SHORT YEARS AND YOU WILL FIND THAT DEP-S BUDGET WAS CUT BIG TIME—–AN AMAZING THING TO DO WITH THE GAS DRILLING THEN DEVELOPING INTO THE NEXT BIGGEST THING TO AFFECT PA-S ENVIRONMENT SINCE THE COAL MINING BARONS LEFT SO MUCH DISASTER BEHIND

  • mdog

    We have always had a natural Radioactive Radon problem in PA.
    So by all means add a few million psi to possibly force it
    into our cellars even faster.

  • mdog

    Agent todie # 3
    Your right its good to add a million lbs of pressure to an already hazardous situation.
    Its also good to pump hazardous into the earth by the millions of gallons.
    Who needs water to drink when we can drink whiskey and our own recycled urine !
    PROGRESS !!

  • J

    Ha this is funny pa is the most enviromental friendly gas field seen in the u.s. But everyone still complains but i bet the only people crying are the ones that dont receive money from it and as far as the people on carter rd and the idiots in ely ville we call them i grew up on that road and almost all of them had gas in their water before the drilling even started i remember as a kid lighting the water on fire as kid when i was being babysat at some of these houses

    • Scott Cannon

      So what, you’ve been lighting water on fire? It is proven that gas drilling causes it methane in water supplies as well. It’s either an act of nature, or an act of the gas industry. If drilling caused it, it is man made and they are responsible. So what? Your argument is ignorant. You only need to look in the mirror to see the idiot.

      • J

        Well it doesnt much matter how u look at it the gas fields of pa have takin this state out of poverty provided plenty of jobs for local ppl wether its driving trucks opening new businesses or working on drilling rigs and has takin made it so many farmers dont have to shut down their farms just because a only a hand few of ppl have gas in their water doesnt mean much compared to the wealth it has brought to our small towns hell the gas industry even rebuilt roads and bridges for the towns so before becoming a hypocrite and bash the gasfields ppl need to look at the upside of things but juss remember if it wasnt for drilling u wouldnt even have the shoes on your feet or the rubber on your tires everything u look at has petroleum or was hauled in from another country using fossil fuel or natural gas

    • Scott Cannon

      Maybe to you its all about the money, but can you look someone in the eye who’s life has been turned upside own from a water contamination and tell them it’s worth it for your benefit? If you can, you are heartless.

      • J

        Ok as of right now there is only 2 homes they have bad water because of drilling and cabot supplies them with water eveyday so no their life isnt turned upside down from bad water they actually have it pretty good i personally know both scott ely and sheila ely and also the carter family cabot did a research at the susquehanna county court house and all of them except the ely’s had bad water when they bought their homes or built them when they had perk tests and water tests done its the reason why its state mandatory to do it and yea i could look at them and say it 2 families out of thousands that benefit from it

  • Scott Cannon

    Yet more pipelines and gas wells are planned. Let’s convert our fleets to natural gas, drill more, ship it overseas, drill more. We are not yet 10% into the Marcellus gas boom. Multiply our problems now by 10 and you can see the kind of future we have if we continue this course. Drill, fools, drill.

  • mdog

    These hot days i go out to the yard in the morning….all i can smell
    is diesel exhaust and GOD ONLY KNOWS WHAT THEY BURN OFF THOSE TOWERS.

  • Kevin

    Pretty sad that it took a year and a half to finish a government report spanning from 2009-2012, tax dollars wasted, if I took a year and a half to complete a project I would be fired, there is no accountability with these government programs. A concerned Veteran

  • deanmars2013

    We have been telling folks this story for 4-5 years and the Media and the Corbett Administration have covered for the Department AND the industry that spreads a ton of $$$$ in advertising and “Campaign Donations” ! Sickening and disgusting! NOW the Media will make this public in an attempt to cover their Bias and Conflict of interest! Shame on the whole greedy bunch!

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