Monday, February 28, 2011

Updated Pennsylvania Gas Oversight Hiring Leads Nation, NYT Part 6

[NOTE TO READERS: Please read first the 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 7 posts that examines the NYT reporter's narrative of lax regulation and lax oversight of the in Pennsylvania.]

No state that has had shale drilling or gas drilling can match or come close to the substantial hiring increases for the gas oversight staff that Pennsylvania implemented since 2008 to the best of my knowledge. 

But to say that Pennsylvania has lead the nation in gas oversight staff hiring would severely damage the reporter's narrative of his February 27th Gas Drilling story that Pennsylvania has lax oversight and lax regulation. The reporter brands Pennsylvania in the piece as an "extreme case," when building his narrative of lax regulation and oversight. Yet  he ignores this "extreme case" of Pennsylvania leading the nation in seriously addressing oversight staffing. 

The reporter gives the briefest of mentions to staffing by mentioning in a sentence with other points a "doubling the number of regulators."  In the main article, that is it.

No mention that Pennsylvania's regulatory staff hiring record to increase staff is exceptionally strong, in fact unmatched.

Pennsylvania increased its staff from 88 to 202.  The article does not provide the actual staffing numbers.

 By my math a "doubling" of 88 would be 176.  DEP did more than a doubling or more than a 100% increase.

The hiring commenced in early 2009.  It continued twice more in 2010. 

Two new offices for the gas regulatory staff were opened.  One in 2009 in Williamsport  and one in Scranton in 2010.

Again, no state approaches this record to my knowledge.  But the reporter could not say that the state that led the nation in increasing oversight staff had lax oversight.  That would be jarring to most readers.

And how did Pennsylvania pay for this substantial increase in gas oversight staff?  Especially when the near depression that followed the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy on September 15, 2008 caused state tax revenues to decline sharply.

DEP used emergency rulemaking powers.  Governor Rendell authorized me in 2008 shortly after I became Secretary to use emergency rulemaking powers to raise the fee charged Marcellus well drillers when they applied for a drilling permit.  The fee was raised typically to $5,000 to $10,000 for a Marcellus well drilling application.  The exact amount depended on the depth of the well.

Fee revenues increased from considerably less than $1 million per year to more than $10 million per year.  All this fee income was dedicated to new drilling oversight staff.

And that is how Pennsylvania led the nation in gas oversight hiring.  To my knowledge no other state approaches this record.  You would of course have no idea that Pennsylvania led the nation in hiring regulatory staff and little idea at all about any of this from reading the February 27th NYT story.


  1. I have read all your comments, Mr. Hanger, and I truly do sympathize with you over the lack of credit given to you for trying to gain some control over the gas industry. Unfortunately you and Governor Rendell will be remembered as the PA officials who let the gas industry loose on the PA environment and the human, animal and plant life it supports without exercising due precaution. Surely you know of the Precautionary Principle, which was ignored with respect to this industry's potential to cause irreparable environmental harm. You have been playing catch-up with the industry ever since. That will be the bottom-line legacy of your tenure. The gas industry got the best of you, which is a tragic outcome given the deep dedication to protecting the environment that you obviously have. New York and Maryland, by contrast, are taking more time before letting this industry have its way. It remains to be seen whether they will ever permit shale gas drilling. Maybe they will, but at least they have recognized that we presently do not have enough data or studies to allow this industry to proceed. So they are taking more time.

    You know that the industry fought you every step of the way on your new waste water standards, and other regulatory issues, and you have said so. Your time now would be well spent in giving the public a full accounting of the extent to which this industry has acted as one with something to hide. Name the names. Let the entire world know what you had to face from the companies and their lobbying organizations. Say more about the extent to which corporate power has captured the political power of our state and bent the laws in its favor, making it impossible - as you once said - to shut down the "bad actors" that would do business in our state.

    And if as you say, PA must test all drinking water for unsafe levels of radiation right away, and all beside that is "sideshow" (including your own hurt), then let's have you back as an advocate and watchdog to make sure they do that, now, without delay.

    Let's hear John Hanger's true voice again, now that you do not have to be both the promoter of gas drilling and the one who issues the permits.

  2. It was not only the addition of more staff, but under your leadership, a sweeping, more comprehensive, and strengthened set of regulations for the O&G industry. These regulations which were published in the PA Bulletin on 2/5/11 will go along way to protect public health & safety. I was also impressed that the Marcellus Coalition did not really fight these new requirements but, in large part, worked with the Department to develop smarter, and more protective regulations. I was proud to be a part of that process.