AP Reports PA DEP is Seriously Understaffed and Cutting Corners with Marcellus Shale Drilling Permits

The Associated Press is transparently anti-drilling in its reporting. While everyone pretends the mighty AP is unbiased and “above the fray” and independent, it is not. So let’s just get that out on the table. MDN uses that preface for news from the AP that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is seriously understaffed when it comes to reviewing Marcellus Shale drilling permits.

IF the following is accurate, it is disturbing indeed and deserves immediate attention from Gov. Corbett. But bear in mind the news comes from the AP, so you never know…

Pennsylvania environmental regulators say they spend as little as 35 minutes reviewing each of the thousands of applications for natural gas well permits they get each year from drillers intent on tapping the state’s lucrative and vast Marcellus Shale reserves.

And the regulators say they do not give any additional scrutiny to requests to drill near high-quality streams and rivers even though the waterways are protected by state and federal law.

Staffers in the state Department of Environmental Protection testified behind closed doors last month as part of a lawsuit filed by residents and environmental groups over a permit that DEP issued for an exploratory gas well in northeastern Pennsylvania, less than a half-mile from the Delaware River and about 300 feet from a pristine stream.

Reporting by the Associated Press suggests that applications are rubber-stamped, rushed through with little scrutiny and rarely rejected. The staffers’ statements indicate that DEP regulators are overburdened — and possibly ignoring environmental laws — as they struggle to deal with an unprecedented drilling boom that has turned Pennsylvania into a major natural gas player and raised fears about polluted aquifers and air.

The agency has denied few requests to drill in the Marcellus Shale formation, the world’s second-largest gas field. Of the 7,019 applications that DEP has processed since 2005, only 31 have been rejected — less than one-half of one percent.*

*Elmira Star-Gazette/AP (Apr 13, 2011) – Pa. accused of rubber-stamping numerous gas permits