Harrisburg, PA – Members of environmental and citizen groups sent several thousand emails to Governor Tom Corbett and Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Krancer seeking information regarding how the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) investigates cases of water contamination from fracking. Late last week DEP Secretary Krancer began responding to these emails without providing any new information that was specifically requested.
Pennsylvania residents have been asking for 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. As spring approaches, Pennsylvania residents still don’t have answers to these questions that were first raised last fall and posed again over the winter. The questions are in a letter to Secretary Krancer posted at https://earthworks.org/assets/uploads/archive/files/publications/DEPWaterTestMeetingLetter_FINAL_1-25-13_%281%29.pdf.
“It is stunning that families impacted by fracking operations are no closer now to learning what is in their water, according to DEP's own lab tests, than they were last November,” said Iris Marie Bloom, Executive Director of Protecting Our Waters. “Secretary Krancer must do his job to protect the families of Pennsylvania and answer all responsible inquiries about water testing protocol immediately.”
“People need answers to the pressing questions that continue to be ignored by Secretary Krancer about the veracity of water tests of residents' wells that may have been polluted by gas development. Mr. Krancer's deep silence on the details begs the question 'What is the state doing to protect Pennsylvanians' drinking water from fracking pollution?'”, said Tracy Carluccio, Deputy Director, Delaware Riverkeeper Network.
Unfortunately, Secretary Krancer’s recent response offered no direct answers to the important questions and concerns outlined in the email. “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,” said Nadia Steinzor, Eastern Program Coordinator, Earthworks. “Events on the ground have grown urgent and many households continue to potentially be exposed to toxic substances.”
Instead, Secretary Krancer chose to make general statements and tried to paint the coalition of environmental and citizens groups as the obstructionists to obtaining the answers by asserted that they are the ones who refuse to meet with the DEP. “This is simply not true,” said Steve Hvozdovich Marcellus Shale Policy Associate, Clean Water Action. “The only thing we refuse to do is allow Secretary Krancer to exclude organizations and individuals from the table which he is trying to do, simply because he doesn’t like their message. If we allow it to occur here, who will be the next group or individual he blackballs because of similar circumstances.” “For months, our organizations and the hundreds of thousands of residents we represent have been waiting for answers from Secretary Krancer to pressing questions about residential water quality testing and reporting,” said Erika Staaf of PennEnvironment. “We’re looking for a substantive dialogue on this matter, and yet all we’re getting in response are vague assurances that DEP staff are doing their jobs.”
“The run-around our coalition has been getting and the patent disingenuousness we are experiencing from Secretary Krancer is eerily but unsurprisingly congruent with the lack of transparency at issue in the water testing results and protocols,” said Julie Edgar, Organizer, Lehigh Valley Gas Truth. “Pennsylvanians are left with a situation as murky as a glass of shalefield frackwater.” Secretary Krancer’s reply email also included politically charged statements about topics irrelevant to the inquiries on policies and procedures in the original email. He used this medium to re-raise his personal feud with Rep. Jesse White and attack him for his vote on Act 13, a message he consistently carried throughout all of his replies regardless of whether the recipient was a constituent of Rep. White’s or not.
The people of Pennsylvania have been waiting patiently for answers and deserve better than the response they got. “As a public official, Secretary Krancer should respond to the concerns of residents across the Commonwealth with care and seriousness,” said Karen Feridun, Founder, Berks Gas Truth. “DEP needs to provide details on how it does its work and plans to address problems related to water quality and health going forward.” The only glimmer of hope that this may occur is a statement from Secretary Krancer’s email where he states that “DEP does plan on responding in writing to some written inquiries posed by the groups.” But until the day actually comes where Secretary Krancer directly addresses ALL not just some of their inquiries, the residents of Pennsylvania will continue to feel let down and strung along and will work to apply additional pressure to get their answers.