Placing the health and wellbeing of Pennsylvania residents at great risk, the state’s environmental regulatory body is “woefully” unprepared to monitor and regulate the shale oil and gas drilling boom, charged a report released by the state’s Inspector General on Tuesday.
According to the audit, the “meteoric growth” of the shale gas industry, which is due largely to the proliferation of fracking, “caught the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) unprepared” to effectively monitor well safety, protect drinking water, and provide clear and timely information to citizens.
“It is almost like firefighters trying to put out a five-alarm fire with a 20-foot garden hose,” said Auditor General Eugene DePasquale in a statement on the report’s release. “There is no question that DEP needs help and soon to protect clean water.”
The IG report was released the same day that an investigation by the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette revealed that—according to the DEP’s own public records which were forcibly obtained through a court order—oil and gas extraction operations either contaminated or restricted the flow of water in the state 209 times since 2007.
Though the drilling industry dismissed those findings as being a small percentage of the thousands of shale wells drilled in the state, environmentalists say the actual number of incidents of drilling-related water contamination is likely far greater.
“Given what the Auditor General reported about DEP’s shoddy documentation and haphazard citizen response, there’s no doubt that the actual number of cases is higher,” Nadia Steinzor, eastern program coordinator for Earthwork’s Oil & Gas Accountability Project, told Common Dreams. “Industry’s claim that water contamination has been minimal is based on a ‘if you don’t look you won’t see’ approach to regulation.”
As Karen Feridun, founder of Berk Gas Truth, points out: 209 wells is not 209 people. With individuals wells often serving multiple families, she says it is a “mystery” how many people are actually affected. Further, she notes that 209 reflects the number of “concluded cases,” asking: “How many of those complaints of contamination remain inconclusive”?
SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT