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Background:

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has sent a letter to stakeholders regarding the agency’s enforcement policy during COVID and Governor Wolf’s indefinite Stay-at-Home order.  The response by Secretary McDonnell follows a request made by numerous environmental groups that sought the clarification, as well as pressure from Earthworks regarding DEP response to resident complaints.

Statement of Pennsylvania and Ohio Field Advocate Leann Leiter: 

“While Trump’s EPA has weakened oversight of polluting industries, Sec. McDonnell has reassured Pennsylvanians by committing DEP to continue the enforcement of all laws protecting public health and the environment during the COVID emergency.

“We believe the Wolf Administration should go further and reverse its decision that issuing permits for new sources of pollution is part of ‘essential’ operations during this unprecedented moment.  Pennsylvanians should not have to suffer an even heavier health burden from new pollution sources.  We ask the agency to instead direct its limited resources to much-needed oversight of existing operations and enforcement.  If polluting industries can operate, they can also comply with public health protections.

“Although the COVID pandemic is new, there’s nothing new about fossil fuel and other industries’ pining for weaker oversight.  That is why the DEP must also do more to provide transparency by publicly posting all requests made by companies for suspensions of regulatory requirements and permit considerations, not just those granted by the agency.

“Sec. McDonnell is right to say that the response of government to one public health crisis should not lead to another.  Regulators in every other oil and gas producing state should immediately adopt similar policies that prioritize people, not polluters.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION

  • Earthworks’ press release and blog asking DEP for further clarification on the agency’s COVID enforcement policy

  • The oil and gas threat map shows 1.5 million residents have been effectively trapped with the physical and emotional health threats of living next to industry since Governor Tom Wolf has issued an indefinite stay at home order for the entire state. Many families have nowhere to go to escape the daily pollution and other problems at these operations.

  • Pennsylvania’s normally invisible oil and gas pollution revealed by certified thermographers as part of Earthworks Community Empowerment Project.

Justin Wasser, (202) 887-1872 x136, jwasser@earthworks.org

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