Eugene DePasquale – Protecting Pennsylvania's Natural Resources

As a former Deputy Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, Eugene DePasquale will prioritize the protection of Pennsylvania's environment. As Auditor General, Eugene will use his role to monitor state agencies' efforts to protect Pennsylvania's natural resources.

Natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale formation of Pennsylvania has had one of the most significant impacts on Pennsylvania's economy in recent memory. While natural gas drilling has brought new opportunities to small towns and rural communities throughout the state, the drilling activities have also created potential threats to Pennsylvanians' quality of life in terms of impacts to air, water and infrastructure if not managed properly. On his first day in office, Eugene will order a review of the state’s water protection programs in order to evaluate potential threats caused by the Marcellus Shale drilling.

In February 2012, Tom Corbett signed Act 13 into law, which allows local governments to enact an impact fee, but also puts them at a disadvantage to protect their communities where drilling activities are planned or are currently taking place. Act 13 does the following:

  • Eliminates counties' ability to regulate natural gas drilling activities as they do with other industrial uses. Local government officials will no longer have the authority over zoning decisions to protect homes, schools, and businesses from the adverse effects of natural gas drilling. In a statement regarding passage of Act 13, the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund observed, "Act 13 punctuates the State's priority to remove as much power as possible from those who are most impacted by gas extraction." i

  • Enables the enactment of an impact fee, of which 60% is distributed to counties and municipalities and 40% to the State. While there are significant impacts to air, water, infrastructure, the legislation that was passed allows the fee to be spent beyond the actual impact caused by the drilling activity--parks, trails, tax reductions, safe and affordable housing, records management, social services, and judicial services. There is, therefore, no guarantee that there will be sufficient funding available to address impacts caused by drilling activities. Further, the rate of the fee will fluctuate with the price of natural gas and State revenue projections are contingent on all 34 counties where drilling activities are occurring to enact an impact fee.

  • Creates public health and patient safety issues. While health professionals are able to access information regarding the chemicals used to extract natural gas, Act 13 forbids them to share this information with the patients they are treating or the public.

Act 13, in combination with continued reductions in the budgets of both the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources—two state agencies with primary responsibility for regulatory and enforcement activities—provides no guarantees to Pennsylvania's communities that they will be compensated for the negative impacts of natural gas drilling or that their natural resources will be sufficiently protected. As Auditor General, Eugene DePasquale will:

  • Ensure DEP and DCNR maintains appropriate staffing levels to properly regulate and monitor natural gas drilling activities.

  • Ensure consistency among DEP regional offices in enforcement and permitting activities related to natural gas drilling activities.

  • Ensure DEP is monitoring water quality (including groundwater and wells) for methane and chemicals used in hydrofracking.

  • Ensure gas spill plans are compliant with state and federal law.

  • Ensure DEP is monitoring safe and appropriate disposal of waste fluids used in hydrofracking operations. Specifically, urge the DEP to mandate that drilling companies stop using treatment plans that are not equipped to remove certain contaminants from hydrofracking wastewater.

  • Urge amendments to Act 13 to allow health professionals to disclose information necessary to properly and appropriate treat patients or protect the public’s safety.

  • Ensure impact fees are adequate to compensate Pennsylvania communities for impacts caused by natural gas drilling activities. The Auditor General will scrutinize how funds are being allocated and recommend changes to Act 13, if necessary.

  • Urge changes to Act 13 that will extend the liability of drilling companies. Per Act 13, driller liability ends one year after a well is capped. This amount of time may be insufficient to determine if there have been public health problems or adverse effects to the environment as a result of drilling activities. Just as coal is an extremely important natural resource in Pennsylvania and has had tremendous impacts on our economy for hundreds of years, there are adverse effects throughout the state as a result of coal mining. As stated by the U.S. Geology Survey, "Drainage from thousands of abandoned coal mines has contaminated more than 3,000 miles of streams and associated ground waters in Pennsylvania and is the most extensive water-pollution problem affecting the four major river basins in Pennsylvania." ii

Natural gas drilling activity is moving at an extremely swift pace in Pennsylvania. As Auditor General, Eugene DePasquale will continue to work with the Commonwealth’s stakeholders, state agencies and legislative leaders to support the growth of the natural gas industry, but more importantly, to ensure that communities throughout Pennsylvania have the tools necessary to ensure safe and abundant natural resources.

i CELDF Statement on the Legislature's Passage of Marcellus Shale Legislation (Act 13 of 2012). "Pennsylvania Legislature Preempts Community Decision Making." Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, March 2012"

ii U.S. Geology Survey. "Coal-Mine-Drainage Projects in Pennsylvania"