The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is developing a regulatory system to ensure more statewide consistency in the enforcement of its natural gas and oil drilling regulations, according to a DEP statement.
In the statement, DEP Secretary Michael Krancer said that since becoming secretary he has been aware that oversight of oil and gas drilling was often inconsistent from region to region.
Krancer said his Office of Oil and Gas Management implemented a more-detailed electronic inspection form for use in all three regions. The office is also 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.
A DEP report ordered by Krancer found that its water-quality specialists performed 4,157 inspections of Marcellus Shale gas wells from January 18, 2011, to June 24, 2011, the first five months of the Corbett administration. The team assembling the report found 633 violations.
According to the report, 269, or 9.86 percent, of the 2,727 inspections done in the north central region that includes 45 counties in the eastern half of the state, found one or more violations. Yet in the 10-county southwest region, 38 of 1,101 inspections found violations, a rate of 3.45 percent. In the northwest, a 12-county region, 17 of 329 inspections resulted in violation findings, a 5.1-percent rate.
Only 29.5 percent of the violations were cleared or moved to an escalated enforcement action within a 14-day departmental deadline for such action.
"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."
On another front, the DEP 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 the industry with additional compliance assistance information.