[NOTE TO READERS: Please read first the February 27th post entitled: "Statement Regarding Sunday NYT February 27th Drilling Article." I am the former Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. This post is one of a 7 part posting series examining the reporting and reporter's narrative of lax oversight and regulation of drilling in Pennsylvania.]
It certainly is helpful to a narrative of lax oversight and regulation to exclude from the main article just about all the oversight and regulatory activity taken by the Department of Environmental Protection. But that is the main method of this Reporter to produce his narrative of lax oversight and regulation of drilling in Pennsylvania
The Department of Environmental Protection from just January 1, 2008 to June 30, 2010 issued 1400 violations to Marcellus drilling companies. You will not find that number anywhere in the New York Times Article. As I have said, many times it is a lot of violations and represents too many spills, leaks, and other problems. It documents active enforcement of the regulations by DEP. It contradicts the narrative of lax oversight and regulation.
Instead of the 1400 total violations number, what you find is a calculation by the reporter that tells the readers: "From October 2008 through October 2010, regulators were more than twice as likely to issue a written warning than to levy a fine for environmental and safety violations." So the total number of violations issued is not an indicator of enforcement that readers should know but the ratio of warning to fines is. This is a clever way to conceal a very large number that is inconsistent with a narrative of lax oversight and regulation.
The main article also does not report at all on major regulatory, oversight and enforcement actions of DEP that were covered extensively by media in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. Here is a partial list:
1. No mention of the strong regulatory and enforcement action against EOG for a 2010 gas well blowout. DEP ordered EOG and a subcontractor to cease drilling, to cease fracking, and to cease completing wells for weeks and conducted a thorough investigation that led to a detailed order to EOG about drilling practices as well as a directive to the entire industry. EOG and the subcontractor paid a significant fine. DEP also directed the entire industry to follow the safety and operating requirements imposed on EOG. This case drew state and national media coverage. It strongly contradicts a narrative of lax oversight.
2. No mention of DEP orders to other companies to stop drilling and to stop fracking for as long as a year. These orders imposed expense of many millions of dollars. To discuss them would have contradicted the narrative of lax regulation and oversight.
3. No mention of DEP actions/orders to require the plugging of gas wells that caused gas migration at great expense to the drilling company and the mineral owner. These actions also imposed expense running into many millions of dollars. To mention them would contradict the narrative of lax regulation and oversight.
4. No mention of DEP actions/orders to require the repair of gas wells that required companies cumulatively to have tens of millions of dollars of expense. To mention them would contradict the narrative of lax regulation and oversight.
5. No metion of DEP actions/orders to companies themselves to pay for cleaning up spills and leaks at substantial expense. These actions requiring companies to pay for clean up imposed expense of many millions of dollars.
6. No mention of the DEP enforcement case with Cabot Oil and Gas that drew enormous media attention. To do so would contradict the narrative of lax regulation and oversight.
7. No mention of DEP winning a settlement that paid 19 families on average $200,000 or twice their market value as a result of gas migrating from an oil well to their private water wells. The 19 impacted families kept their properties and mineral rights in addition. As of when I left office, methane had been removed form 14 of the 19 families water wells. To mention this enforcement activity would have contradicted the narrative of lax oversight and regulation.
8. No mention of the state police/DEP Fracnet operations to stop and inspect drilling trucks. These inspections put out of service about 40% of the trucks inspected. To mention this action would have strongly contradicted the narrative of lax regulation and oversight.
9. No mention of major fines levied in 2010 against several companies.
10. No mention of the 5,000 inspections of Marcellus drill sites in 2010 alone, a 100% increase over 2009.
The list of major regulatory, oversight, and enforcement actions that this reporter and article ignores goes on and on. Above is the tip of the iceberg.
Had the reporter interviewed me he would have heard the above list and more from me. It took a determined effort to ignore the massive regulatory, oversight, enforcement activity conducted by the DEP at the direction of Governor Rendell and myself.
But had he not ignored the real record, how could he have written his lax regulation and lax oversight narrative?