Audit faults DEP response to gas drilling water complaints

July 23, 2014

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection failed to adequately track and respond to public complaints about water issues related to natural gas development, according to a report released Tuesday by the state Auditor General’s Office.

Auditors found the agency lacking in eight key areas — including sloppy record-keeping, lax oversight of drilling waste and gas wells, as well as poor communication with people who complained gas drilling, or fracking, contaminated their water.

In some cases, auditors say it took months or even years for the DEP to log complaints into its internal tracking system.

The report is the result of a campaign pledge by Auditor General, Eugene DePasquale, a Democrat who previously served as a state representative and DEP staffer.

“DEP is underfunded, understaffed and inconsistent in how it approaches shale gas development. It’s like firefighters trying to put out a five-alarm fire with a 20 foot garden hose,” says DePasquale.

The DEP disputes all of the audit’s eight finding, but does agree with most of the report’s 29 recommendations for improvement.

The audit covered agency operations in the early years of the gas boom from 2009 through the end of 2012.

The DEP secretary says the audit findings are outdated because it has improved and updated many of its procedures.