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The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) was established on July 1, 1995, is the agency in the U.S. State of Pennsylvania responsible for protecting and preserving the land, air, water, and energy resources through enforcement of the State's environmental laws. The Department also fosters community development, environmental education, and encourages public involvement in environmental policy.
As a part of its duties as regulator of the oil and gas industry, the PA DEP provides records of permits, well data, production data, waste data, inspection data, and violation data for free to the public in its online database eFACTS.
The policy initiatives of the Secretary are created here as well as environmental justice. Both the environmental quality board and the citizens advisory council also help the Secretary shape Departmental policy.
The Executive Deputy Secretary performs major communication with various media outlets. Other responsibilities include the development of legislative initiatives and grants for environmental education.
The Land Recycling program, Brownfields Action Team, and the Office of Local Government Liaisons all assist municipalities and business to foster redevelopment of derelict and polluted properties.
The six regional offices (located in Norristown, Harrisburg, Williamsport, Wilkes-Barre, Pittsburgh, and Meadville) as well as the main laboratory all receive assistance through this office. The emergency response team, which handles all environmental emergencies throughout the state, also operates under this office.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found elevated iodine-131 (I-131) levels in Philadelphia's drinking water several times since 2007 during routine quarterly monitoring. Iodine-131 is used to diagnose and treat thyroid cancer, is produced via nuclear fission, is a byproduct of nuclear power and weapons testing, and is a tracer used in hydraulic fracturing. Iodine-131 is also used in annual tests for leaks in injection wells containing waste. Originally the elevated levels were suspected to be related to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster or medical waste. By March 2012 the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection had ruled out the nuclear disaster, local nuclear energy production, or hospitals as sources and concluded by process of elimination that the episodically elevated levels were probably caused by patients receiving iodine therapy for the treatment of thyroid cancer.
From April 2011 to April 2012 the Philadelphia Water Department, the PADEP and the US EPA conducted an intensive surveillance program to characterize I-131 in source water and determine its origins. Weekly monitoring produced 151 treated drinking water and 445 source water samples. Most readings from the Queens Lane and Belmont facilities were low (< 1pCi/L), but samples with measurable (> 1pCi/L) I-131 were found. Spikes were detected in the Schuylkill, downstream of Reading, Norristown and Pottstown. A panel of experts concluded that more information is also needed regarding the potential contributions of sources such as veterinary treatments, septic systems, Sanitary Sewer Overflows, Combined Sewer Overflows, and hydro-fracturing, and of the impact of I-131 to the ecology of receiving waters. The report noted that at this time there are no "off-the-shelf" large scale drinking water treatment options for I-131 available, little research to provide a basis for developing new water treatment approaches, and that known treatment options are costly.
As of October, 2012 EPA's Rad Net's periodic Iodine-131 drinking water readings were elevated to 5.46 pCi/L at the Belmont facility and 3.28 pCi/L at Queens Lane. The federal drinking water standard for Iodine-131 is 3.00 pCi/L. The EPA has stopped publishing Iodine-131 levels on its Rad Net website.
In March 2011, testimony of four DEP staffers, responsible for processing permits, suggested that applications for natural gas well permits are rubber-stamped, rushed through with little scrutiny and rarely rejected. The staffers' statements indicate that DEP regulators are overburdened - and possibly ignoring environmental laws - as they struggle to deal with an unprecedented drilling boom. Pennsylvania Governor, Tom Corbett, previously repealed a 4-month-old policy that prevented natural gas drilling in state parks, which the former director of DCNR stated could hurt recreation and the environment of parks in the Western part of the state. In April 2011, DEP reported elevated levels of bromide, a chemical used in the natural gas drilling process, in rivers and streams in the Western part of the state and called on companies drilling in the Marcellus Shale natural gas formation to stop taking wastewater to 15 treatment plants by May 19. Michael Krancer, acting Secretary of the DEP, further stated, "if operators (natural gas drilling) would stop giving wastewater to facilities that continue to accept it under the special provision, bromide concentrations would quickly and significantly decrease."
In July 2014, a similar decision occurred, and Governor Corbett refused to sign any new leases for drilling in state parks and natural lands, due to the DEP's lack of staffing, funding, and ability to keep regulatory standards up. This decision was made with the stated cause of protecting state wildlife, natural areas, and watersheds during a higher court case to be settled in September or October of 2014.
|Name||Dates Served||Appointed by|
|James Seif *||1995 – 2001||Tom Ridge|
|David Hess||2001 – 2003|
|Kathleen McGinty||2003 – 2008||Edward Rendell|
|John Hanger||2008 – 2011|
|Michael Krancer||2011 – 2013||Tom Corbett|
|E. Christopher Ambruzzo||2013 – Present|
* James Seif was also the last Secretary of the Department of Environmental Resources before it was split.
"Cabinet-level agencies". The Pennsylvania Manual 118. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Department of General Services. 2007.