Auditor General Releases Audit Results of DEP

Auditor General Releases Audit Results of DEP

An audit released Tuesday by the Pennsylvania Auditor General claims the natural gas industry outpaced DEP's ability to oversea the industry.
More funding, more workers and more monitoring.

Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale released an audit Tuesday of what the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection needs to address the growing natural gas industry.

The audit was critical of the agency, which is charged with regulating the natural gas industry and protecting the public's water quality.

The audit is more than 150 pages.

It covered the time period from 2009 to 2012. It had eight major findings and 29 recommendations.

In response, the Department of Environmental Protection has disagreed with every one of the audit's findings and the agency says it has already made a lot of changes, incorporating many of the audit's recommendations.

With natural gas drilling now big business in the northern tier, the Pennsylvania Auditor General says the DEP is understaffed and underfunded.

"I think they're doing their job," Karen Tevlin of Jessup Township said.

Karen Tevlin lives in Susquehanna County, around where all the drilling is taking place.

She wasn't concerned by the audit's results and admits she's confused at exactly how DEP does its job.

"We really don't even understand the whole, how they monitor the wells, how they know they're compliant or doing what they're supposed to do," Tevlin said.

That underscores one of the key findings of the audit, which says the DEP did not clearly communicate with people about their water supply.

Another key finding is that the DEP couldn't provide reliable assurance that all active gas wells were properly inspected at least once a year.

"They're understaffed," Bob Butler of Forest Lake Township said.

After hearing about the audit, Bob Butler, who has a gas lease himself, wasn't concerned but he does hope more workers are hired.

"Well, that might be a good idea but you know what we think should be done and it's never done. What are we going to do about it?" Butler asked.

Another one of the key findings of the Auditor General audit found that DEP failed to consistently issue official orders to well operators who negatively impact water supplies.

The DEP says in some instances that's unnecessary because the drilling company has already fixed the problems.

That's an issue that Pat Hunsinger of Dimock Township understands.

"I do know a neighbor had a problem, a water problem and they called the driller themselves and they came and fixed it," Hunsinger said.

In a statement, the DEP said the audit found no instance where their agency failed to protect public health or safety.

Officials also say the audit reflects how the agency used to operate, not how it currently functions and officials say they've taken steps to improve regulatory efforts and transparency to the public.

To read the entire audit of the Pennsylvania Auditor General:

http://www.auditorgen.state.pa.us/Department/Press/DEPShaleGas.html

To read the DEP's response to the audit:

http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/marcellus_shale/20296
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