HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Pennsylvania’s Constitution guarantees clean air and pure water for its constituents. Attorney General Josh Shapiro argues, however, that natural gas drillers are violating those rights with fracking, and that the state agencies charged with policing the industry are failing.
Natural gas drillers spoiling water is not a new claim in Pennsylvania, but much of a grand jury report criticizes the Department of Environmental Protection for shielding the violators.
“Residents cried for help and no one from the government came,” Shapiro remarked. “Regulators were supposed to prevent abuse by the big corporations and level the playing field, but they didn’t.”
The attorney general says the relationship between the department and drillers is too cozy. At one point, a heightened review had to be ordered before investigators on the ground could levy violations.
“The message to employees was, intended or otherwise, leave fracking alone,” Shapiro said.
Shapiro also didn’t spare governors from the blame. Ed Rendell, Tom Corbett, and Tom Wolf were all chastised for not reigning in drillers.
“I would dispute that’s the case,” says Gene Barr, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry.
The chamber has a sizable number of members from gas companies — and Barr believes that Shapiro’s report lacks substantial evidence.
“There is extensive regulation of this industry. It has continued to be updated. We’ve seen no widespread evidence of contamination that others have alleged. It continues to operate safely,” Barr argued.
The attorney general’s patience for the DEP to take initiative is increasingly short. “Unfortunately, we are still, even today, waiting for DEP to step up.”
Governor Wolf has looked to side-step some of the blame falling on his shoulders, citing a flawed ideological approach to regulation inherited through his predecessor. “That was forced on the departments of Environmental Protection and Health by the Corbett Administration, which promoted the rapid expansion of natural gas development and profit above these other priorities,” he said in a statement.
“The DEP, let me be clear, they need to clean up their act and we need to put stronger laws on the books, and we need to put Pennsylvanians first,” Shapiro emphasized.
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