Dear Secretary Abruzzo: As representatives of environmental and citizens organizations, we are writing with regard to the Special Performance Audit titled DEP’s performance in monitoring potential impacts to water quality from shale gas development, 2009-‐2012, issued on July 22 by Auditor General (AG) Eugene A. DePasquale, Pennsylvania Department of the Auditor General (hereafter the “Performance Audit”).
We are very concerned about the flaws in the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) programs that were exposed in the Performance Audit. As you are surely aware, Earthworks recently detailed similar problems in a comprehensive, site-‐by-‐site analysis of how DEP permits and oversees gas and oil operations, captured in a report released on August 7, Blackout in the Gas Patch: How Pennsylvania Residents are Kept in the Dark on Health and Enforcement (hereafter the “Blackout report”).
It is perplexing that DEP rejected all of the eight key findings in the Performance Audit—while simultaneously agreeing with all or parts of 22 of the 29 related recommendations. As detailed below, DEP has neglected to address specific issues raised in both the Performance Audit and the Blackout Report. We ask that DEP explains how and when it plans to do so— particularly in light of the Department’s statements in response to the Performance Audit that, “To a great extent, the audit report reflects how the Oil and Gas Program formerly operated, not how the program currently functions.”
As you know, our organizations have met with DEP staff regularly for more than a year to discuss impacts from oil and gas operations on water quality, with the goals of bringing information to the Department on behalf of affected communities and learning more about DEP policies and perspectives. The Performance Audit and the Blackout report examine many of the issues explored at these meetings and verify the concerns we have raised.
In the same vein of collaboration and dialogue with which we have approached these meetings, we offer the following comments on DEP’s formal responses to the Performance Audit. We hope this will help facilitate swift action by DEP to solve and prevent environmental and health impacts