Excerpted from the letter
Dear Mr. Klapkowski and Mr. Perry:
The undersigned Pennsylvania residents and interested organizations look forward to providing feedback during the public comment period and public hearings regarding the regulatory draft proposal amending 25 Pa. Code Chapter 78, Subpart C. We respectfully make the following requests for modification of the public participation process.
Need for Additional Public Hearing Locations
We recognize that DEP scheduled hearings in each DEP Region across the state. It seems that in planning the advertised public hearings, DEP attempted to identify central locations that could potentially accommodate multiple surrounding areas. However, we strongly urge the scheduling of additional public hearings in counties where oil and gas development is most prevalent and has had a significant impact. ￼Currently, communities in 38 counties across the Commonwealth have shale ￼gas development; yet hearings are currently scheduled only in seven, two of which do not have any ￼drilling at all.
Need for an Extended Comment Period
Given the in-depth nature and importance of the Chapter 78 revisions, we also request that the comment period be extended to 120 days to allow sufficient time for the technical analysis and public review. This is in part necessary because the proposed revisions were issued just before the winter holiday season, and in part because an extended comment period would allow for greater participation from residents statewide who are unable to travel to hearings.
Need for an Inclement Weather Plan with Alternate Hearing Dates
Greatly complicating the distance citizens will have to travel to the hearings is the potential for severe weather conditions (such as heavy snow and icy roads) that are typical for Pennsylvania in January and February. The DEP has not provided for an inclement weather plan in the Chapter 78 public participation process; as a result, if hearings are cancelled as a result of severe weather the public will be prevented from having a chance to participate in person. We request that the DEP develop and implement a plan for inclement weather that includes alternate dates for scheduled public hearings.
Need to Modify Requirements for Verbal Testimony Given at Hearings
Currently, the DEP is requiring those seeking to give verbal testimony at public hearings to contact the Environmental Quality Board via mail or phone at least one week in advance of the hearing in order to reserve a time. Those giving verbal testimony are also required to present the hearing chairperson with three copies of their testimony at the time of the hearing.