The new Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection directive requiring just Marcellus drilling inspectors to get approval to issue notices of violations (NOV) of regulations from the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is unwise and should be reversed. The new Marcellus directive represents a sharp break from the long-standing practice going back at least 5 secretaries and 3 governors of allowing professional DEP inspectors who are the only ones at the site and doing the actual inspections to make the initial decision on whether a violation of regulation exists.
Inspections of mines power plants, water treatment systems, sewer plants, x-ray machines and much more are not subject to this new review and approval process by the Secretary for the issuance of notices of violations. Singling out just Marcellus inspections and notices of violations for this unprecedented, special process is odd and compounds the error.
The professional, independent regulation by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection of our mines, power plants, x-ray machines, drinking water plants, sewer plants, construction sites and gas drilling sites is indispensable to public safety, public health, environmental protection. All of those who enforce our law, all our cops, environmental or otherwise, have tough jobs, are subject to second-guessing and attacks, and could not do their jobs if they had to get approval of each and every enforcement action before it was taken. While all enforcement work is controversial, Marcellus gas drilling enforcement has been especially controversial.
Pressures attacking the professional independence of inspectors have come from many directions, including those who oppose the industry. Resisting all these pressures must begin with insuring that the inspectors in the field will report the truth, the facts, no matter whom it pleases or displeases. A good regulator is not a friend or foe to anybody involved in the process.
Importantly the system of law that exists in Pennsylvania gives companies that disagree with the issuance of a notice of violation means to challenge or appeal inspectors's decisions. There is an existing process that serves as a check on the inspectors initial decision. This is a critical part of the process. Outside of the Marcellus area this is the process available to every other company or institution that disagrees with a notice of violation.
I have been asked today by the media if I believe the Marcellus industry lobbied for this directive. I do not believe that it did.
In my experience drilling companies resolved most notices quickly. Most companies fixed problems and spent considerable funds to do so. Sometimes companies did disagree with a notice and would avail themselves of the proper avenues to answer, modify or challenge a notice of violation. But the Marcellus industry, to its credit in my view, was not challenging most or even a significant number of violations.
I urge rethinking and rescinding the directive.