BLOG: Protecting Pennsylvania’s Air, Land, Water, and Public Health
By: John Quigley, Secretary of Environmental Protection
January 27, 2016
Under the Wolf Administration, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has worked to use innovation to help restore the capacity and integrity of the agency that protects Pennsylvania’s air, land, water, and public health.
We are committed to collaboration and transparency, driven by science, in meeting the agency’s mission. Over the past year, the Department of Environmental Protection has made major advances, even though it lost 14% of its staff complement over the last 10 years.
With modernization in mind, the department achieved the following successes in 2015:
Protecting Public Health and the Environment
The Department of Environmental Protection updated the performance standards for surface activities at conventional and unconventional oil and gas well sites to ensure additional protections to the environment, public health, and safety. This rulemaking represents the first update to rules governing surface activities associated with the development of oil and gas wells since 2001 and implements provisions of the 2012 Oil and Gas Act. After an unprecedented 12 public hearings, almost 28,000 public comments, and the creation of the Conventional Oil and Gas Advisory Committee (COGAC), the rules are on track for Spring 2016 adoption.
We also implemented monthly online production reporting for unconventional natural gas wells, to improve transparency in gas production that will be particularly useful for royalty owners and production forecasters. Production data was previously reported on a semi-annual basis.
The Department of Environmental Protection partnered with DCNR to create a statewide seismic monitoring network. The new, joint effort will maintain a network of 30 real-time monitoring stations, most of which will be located on state park lands. In addition to the 30 fixed stations, 5 additional temporary stations will be available for rapid deployment to investigate seismic events in detail.
Addressing Climate Change
Governor Wolf and DEP announced a nation-leading strategy to reduce emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change, and has been implicated in health risks. The plan is designed to protect the environment and public health, reduce climate change, and help businesses reduce the waste of a valuable product by reducing methane leaks and emissions from natural gas well sites, processing facilities, compressor stations and along pipelines.
Pennsylvania released a scientific assessment of the impacts of climate disruption. The report, prepared for the Department of Environmental Protection at the direction of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, finds that Pennsylvania has warmed 1.8°F in the past 110 years, and the warming will increase at an accelerated rate. By 2050, Pennsylvania will be 5.4°F warmer than it was in the year 2000. By 2050, Philadelphia’s climate will be similar to current-day Richmond, Virginia. Pittsburgh will be similar to current-day Washington, DC or Baltimore, Maryland.
The Department of Environmental Protection commenced work on Pennsylvania’s Clean Power Plan, with Secretary Quigley chairing 14 listening sessions as part of the effort to develop a made-for-Pennsylvania plan to achieve federal mandates. DEP was selected by the National Governors Association as one of four states to participate in a Policy Academy to help states examine cost-effective strategies for meeting the potential requirements of federal regulations to reduce carbon emissions from existing power plants.
Increasing Public Participation
The Department of Environmental Protection revived and renamed DEP Office of Environmental Justice, to serve all residents of Pennsylvania, and improve partnerships with Environmental Justice community members and advocates in policy, planning and permitting processes. New staff are establishing a dialogue with communities that do not always have a voice in environmental issues, ensuring that their concerns are heard, and where possible addressed, by the agency.
I was honored to chair Governor Tom Wolf’s Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force, a collaborative task force to explore the burgeoning construction of as many as 25,000 miles of natural gas gathering lines and 5,000 miles of interstate natural gas pipelines. In early 2016, the multi-agency, multi-stakeholder task force will recommend practices that will create predictability in permitting while simultaneously achieving environmental and community benefits.
We also launched the online eComment tool to enhance public participation in and transparency of regulatory process. Nearly 4,000 comments have been submitted to the system on issues like climate change, pipeline infrastructure, water management, and the federal Clean Power Plan.
These accomplishments are just some of our successes in protecting Pennsylvania’s air, land, water and public health, reflecting our commitment to collaboration, to science, and to transparency in meeting our mission. These achievements and so many more are a testament to the women and men of DEP.
Read more agency year in review blog posts.
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