In 2008, when Governor Rendell appointed me to be the secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, the natural gas boom was just getting underway in Pennsylvania. I quickly discovered that DEP was unprepared to deal with environmental challenges that the new drilling technology, hydrofracking, would bring to our countryside and communities, and I knew I needed to fix that.
Pennsylvania’s drilling regulations were written in the 1980s. It cost $100 to apply for a gas drilling permit, and there were only 88 people working in the Oil and Gas Division.
I immediately set to work modernizing our gas drilling regulations, prohibiting the disposal of gas well wastewater into our streams, requiring water withdraw permits, imposing setback requirements on our best streams and increasing the gas drilling application fees from $100 to an average of $3,000. I used the permit application fees to more than double the staff working to regulate natural gas drilling, and I issued 1200 notices of violation to gas drillers. When the drillers refused to play by our rules, I shut them down.
The development of our gas resource has created thousands of Pennsylvania jobs and cut the Commonwealth’s emissions of greenhouse gas pollution. The new supply has lowered gas prices saving consumers thousands of dollars in utility bills. My focus was to protect our environment while making sure Pennsylvania benefited from our gas resource.