The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is working to "more consistently" enforce natural gas drilling regulations in various regions of the state, DEP Secretary Mike Krancer said Thursday.
"From my first days on the job, I've repeatedly heard that DEP's enforcement of our oil and gas oversight was often inconsistent from region to region," Krancer said. "One of Gov. [Tom] Corbett's promises was to see that DEP's programs are administered fairly and uniformly, and that's what we're striving to achieve."
In September DEP said it was reorganizing to assist regulators with a huge workload related to the Marcellus Shale (see Shale Daily, Sept. 21). Under the plan the Bureau of Oil & Gas Management became the Office of Oil & Gas Management (OOGM) with a separate deputy secretary.
Krancer said he established a team of DEP staff members in Harrisburg and the regional offices that regulate oil and gas activity in the southwest, northwest and north-central parts of the state to study the number and types of violations reported, how violations were recorded and reported, and enforcement actions. The team also worked to identify any inconsistencies and developed plans to enhance consistency.
"Our field staff does great work, but the review confirmed that there were inconsistencies among our regions in how DEP applied regulations and enforcement, and with how the violations were reported," the DEP chief said. "For example, we learned inspectors and water quality specialists in three regions were using three different inspection forms, resulting in inconsistent enforcement of our regulations."
As a result of the review, OOGM implemented a more detailed electronic inspection form for all three regions and is developing additional training for inspectors and water quality specialists.
"With these changes, we should now be able to more swiftly close out notices of violation as having been corrected or, as necessary, elevate them to a higher enforcement level," said Krancer. "Gov. Corbett and I believe that robust and consistent oversight is important. This effort will ensure that we have both."
Work also has begun to simplify the electronic data entry system used for violations, known as eFACTS, to compile a field manual for staff, and to provide staff with more standardized equipment. Plans are in the works to increase the number of compliance staff in each region's OOGM and to provide industry with additional compliance assistance information.