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Pennsylvania DEP Reorganizes, Elevates Oil and Gas Bureau

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) said Tuesday it is reorganizing, a move designed to assist regulators with a burgeoning workload from the state's booming oil and gas industry in the Marcellus Shale.

"These organizational changes will enhance the department's ability to protect Pennsylvania's air, water and land, and also will result in a consistent and predictable regulatory system," DEP Secretary Mike Krancer said, adding that the reorganization fulfilled a campaign promise by Republican Gov. Tom Corbett. "Our commitment to protecting our state's environment remains as strong as ever."

Under the proposal, the Bureau of Oil & Gas Management (BOGM) will become the Office of Oil & Gas Management (OOGM) with its own deputy secretary reporting directly to DEP administrators in the state capital, Harrisburg. Previously, BOGM program managers reported there and to regional offices in Pittsburgh, Williamsport and Meadville.

DEP spokeswoman Katy Gresh told NGI's Shale Daily on Tuesday that Scott Perry would serve as acting deputy secretary for the OOGM.

The DEP will also create two new bureaus -- Environmental Cleanup and Brownfields under the Office of Waste, Air, Radiation and Remediation, and Bureau of Conservation and Reclamation under the Office of Water Management -- and two new offices -- Pollution Prevention and Energy Assistance, and Program Integration.

"The devil will always be in the details," Sen. John Yudichak (D-Nanticoke), minority chair of the Environmental Resources & Energy Committee, told NGI's Shale Daily on Tuesday. "We're still getting some information on the change. My initial reaction is if this enhances the DEP's ability to protect air, land and water, I think it will be an improvement.

"There's no question that with the boom of Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania there have been a lot more demands on the department. I think this has the potential to be a positive decision if the reorganization improves coordination and consistency in the regulation of the natural gas industry."

Industry officials were also supportive of the changes. "Secretary Krancer's decision to reorganize, streamline and modernize the DEP is a prudent step toward ensuring the agency can continue protecting the health and safety of all Pennsylvanians," said Marcellus Shale Coalition President Kathryn Klaber.

Gresh said there would be no layoffs from the reorganization. She said Krancer, during the press conference to announce the changes, held up a blank piece of paper to show the names of the people who would lose their jobs.

"I think they will be moving people around from programs that may have had less on their plate in recent years," Yudichak said. "I suspect that as more permits are issued funding will come for [more] inspectors and a lot of the folks in the department. Staffing will continue to increase.

"The industry is growing in leaps and bounds every day. It was clear that [Krancer] had to do something to make sure that the department could handle that load."

Marcellus activity has been booming. The DEP said that through the first eight months of the year it has issued 2,192 permits and operators reported drilling 1,241 wells in the Marcellus (see Shale Daily, Sept. 20). Over the same time frame in 2010, the department issued 2,065 permits and operators reported drilling 903 wells. For the eight-month period in 2009, those figures were 1,127 and 329, respectively.

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