Joint statement by Berks Gas Truth, Karen Feridun, Founder; Clean Water Action, Steve Hvozdovich, Marcellus Shale Policy Associate; Cross County Citizens Clean Air Coalition, Rebecca Roter, Coordinator; Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Tracy Carluccio, Deputy Director; Earthworks’ OGAP, Nadia Steinzor, Eastern Program Coordinator; Lehigh Valley Gas Truth, Julie Edgar, Organizer; Mountain Watershed Association, Beverly Braverman, Executive Director; PennEnvironment, Erika Staaf, Clean Water Advocate; Pennsylvania Alliance for Clean Water and Air, Jenny Lisak, Co-director; Protecting Our Waters, Iris Marie Bloom, Director; Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter, Thomas Au, Conservation Chair.
As spring approaches, Pennsylvania residents still don’t have answers from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to specific questions about how their water quality and health might be impacted by natural gas development—questions that were first raised last fall and posed again over the winter (and which have been ignored over many years of gas development). Instead, DEP Secretary Krancer persists in making general statements and attacking the messenger, in this case environmental and citizens organizations seeking information on behalf of citizens regarding protocols for testing contaminants in residential water wells; the scientific basis for determining which parameters to test for (and not); how decisions are made in the field and at DEP offices in response to homeowners’ concerns; and the number of cases in which only partial testing results have been provided to homeowners.
Last week, DEP emailed replies to members of our organizations who had asked DEP to respond to such questions. In those emails, Secretary Krancer asserted that we refuse to meet with the agency. That is simply not true. DEP cancelled the long-planned meeting with DEP laboratory and oil and gas experts. We had asked that it be rescheduled. We have also given a list of the questions we would have asked at the meeting to DEP staff, should they choose to provide answers in writing instead.
We stand ready to resume constructive dialogue. The only thing we refuse to do is allow Secretary Krancer to exclude an organization from the table simply because he doesn’t like the messages it uses to communicate with its own supporters. This attempt to cloud and avoid the real issues at hand is a violation of the responsibility of a public agency to respond to and have dialogue with all members of the public.
It is also unfortunate that the email sent by Secretary Krancer, ostensibly in response to inquiries about policies and procedures, included politically charged statements on irrelevant topics (such as Act 13 and the views of Representative Jesse White).
It is simply not enough for Secretary Krancer to repeatedly assert that the DEP makes decisions based on science or that staff are sufficiently trained, while refusing to answer specific questions or provide supporting information. Events on the ground have grown urgent and many households continue to potentially be exposed to toxic substances. It is time for Secretary Krancer to provide details on DEP’s work and plans to address problems related to water quality and health going forward. As a public agency, DEP should respond to the concerns of residents across the Commonwealth with the care and seriousness they deserve.