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Shakeup at DEP and A New Permit Proposed

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has recently undergone some changes, which its leaders hope will make the agency more accessible and transparent to Pennsylvania’s citizens. DEP is also proposing an amendment to its Residual Waste Permit that directly impacts and has grown out of the gas drilling industry.

The amendment, under Permit Number WMGR064, which governs the use of residual waste, is proposing the authorization of the use of natural gas well brine for roadway pre-wetting, anti-icing and roadway de-icing. DEP is also proposing a renewal of permit WMGR065 and make major modifications to the permit to authorize the use of well brine for dust suppressant and stabilizer for unpaved secondary roadways.

Currently, DEP is accepting public comment concerning these proposals. Concerned citizens who are either in favor of or against the proposed amendments should write to Scott Walters, Chief, General Permits, Division of Municipal and Residual Waste, Bureau of Waste Management, PO Box 8472, Harrisburg, PA 17105. Comments may recommend revisions to and approval or denial of the proposed amendment and renewal. They are due by Nov. 17.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania’s DEP Secretary Michael Krancer has issued a notice that PA DEP is undergoing a re-organization. In a letter dated Sept. 20, Krancer states that the changes will “boost our...ability...to fulfill the department’s mission of protecting Pennsylvania’s air, land and water, enforcing our environmental laws and providing for the health and safety of our citizens.”

Krancer continues to note that he had some ideas about re-organization since he took the post early last year and since then, he says, he has gleaned feedback from fellow workers and citizens. Krancer says he wanted to bring DEP back to its “core mission” of environmental protection. He says the streamlined structure will improve coordination among programs, enhance communication between program development and implementation and ensure consistency.

There are several key changes. Oil and Gas Bureau will become its own department, known as the Office of Oil and Gas Management. The office will be headed by an Acting Deputy Secretary and will seek to unify personnel as well as regulation of the oil and gas industry. Krancer says this move reflects Gov. Tom Corbett’s and his own feelings about the importance of “proper, vigorous and unified oversight” of the gas industry. Krancer says the new office will allow for “robust enforcement” of DEP rules and regulations and will have both a tactical and strategic arm.

A new Bureau of Environmental Cleanup and Brownfields will be established within the Waste, Air, Radiation and Remediation Office. The bureau will bring together all remediation efforts and programs. Krancer says he hopes this move will promote Brownfield’s efforts.

The Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) Program will become a new Bureau of Conservation and Reclamation. It will be housed in Water Management, which Krancer calls its “natural home.” Previously, the AMD had been under the Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation.

There will be a new Program Integration (PI) Office so that Harrisburg and regional structures match each other. Krancer says the law must be enforced in a consistent manner all across the state. The director of the PI Office will develop and coordinate the implementation of programs and initiatives and also analyze program efficiency.

There will be a new office of Pollution Prevention and Energy Assistance, housed under the Special Deputy Secretary for External Affairs. The new office will take over from the former Office of Energy Technology and Deployment, and its mission will be to reach out to all of the regional people to help with compliance assistance and pollution prevention.

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