PA DEP Reorganizes to Better Handle Marcellus Drilling

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is reorganizing, largely in an effort to better handle Marcellus Shale gas drilling in the state. According to DEP Secretary Michael Krancer, the new structure will make it easier to catch and punish the “cheaters.”

A reorganization at the state Department of Environmental Protection will streamline operations and impel consistent regulation of the burgeoning Marcellus shale gas industry, the agency secretary said on Monday.

"It’s this simple," said Michael Krancer, who heads the 2,600-person state agency. "When we take four different ways of doing things and make it into one, everybody wins. Environmental protection wins. The predictability wins. The oversight part of it wins. The enforcement is better. The implementation side in the field is better."

Natural gas drilling and the cleanup of brownfield sites are two of the key agency functions highlighted in the changes, Krancer said. The changes won’t require adding or furloughing staffers, he said.

"When I got here in (January), I inherited a bit of a balkanized operation on Marcellus shale and unconventional gas regulation. I had three regions and a central Harrisburg office. Sometimes they were doing it three different ways. We want it to be done one way."

The Bureau of Oil and Gas Management, which oversees gas drilling, will become a stand-alone department headed by a deputy secretary.

If it’s modeled on the Bureau of Mining and Reclamation, the oil and gas department would allow drillers to get their permits all in one place…Drillers usually need several permits covering things such as erosion controls and water usage, and — in a consolidated department — experts on those issues will be able to focus on drilling operations in the larger context.

As a result of the changes, "the environment is going to get consistent and uniform application of the rules," Krancer [said]. "They are going to be playing with the same rulebook. I think enforcement, which always has been important to me, will be more prominent in what we do.

"We’ve always said cheaters need to be called out and treated like cheaters. … The industry wants cheaters called out and dealt with," Krancer said.*

*Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Sep 20, 2011) – ‘Gas rush’ prompts DEP shuffle to create one-stop shop