Nov 22, 2011

Pa. DEP Takes Steps to Improve Consistency in Marcellus Shale Enforcement

System for more consistent enforcement across oil and gas regions to be implemented

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.

"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."

Krancer established a team of DEP staff members from Harrisburg, Pa., and the regional offices that regulate oil and gas activity to study the number and types of violations reported, how violations were recorded and reported, and enforcement actions. The team 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," Krancer 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, DEP's Office of Oil and Gas Management implemented a more detailed electronic inspection form for use in all three regions, and is working to develop 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," Krancer said.

Work 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 Office of Oil and Gas Management and to provide industry with additional compliance assistance information.