State Rep. Jesse White said that if he was Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Krancer, he wouldn't be able to look the people of Pennsylvania in the eye.
White, D-Cecil, will host a policy committee hearing on the state Department of Environmental Protection’s response to environmental testing in Marcellus Shale regions from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 19 in the public meeting room of Washington Courthouse Square, 100 West Beau St., Washington, PA 15301.
The event is open to the public, and Pennsylvania Cable News channel will record the hearing for future broadcast.
The hearing will examine the DEP’s policies and procedures related to air- and water-quality testing near Marcellus Shale gas drilling sites in Pennsylvania, and will include discussion on White’s new proposed legislation, House Bill 268, which would require DEP to make available the full results, data and documentation of the testing.
Scheduled to testify are several Pennsylvania residents who have been critical of DEP’s handling of issues on their properties, and a coalition of environmental organizations, including Earthworks and PennFuture.
But White noted that the DEP declined an invitation to participate in the hearing.
“Secretary Krancer has again confirmed he has zero respect for the very real concerns of our residents,” White said. “I was disappointed but not surprised DEP declined to be part of this discussion."
White also stressed that the hearing will not be a debate about natural gas drilling, but rather an examination of whether DEP is operating in a transparent and responsible manner in dealing with environmental concerns from Marcellus Shale drilling.
“Based on the DEP’s recent history, I think we have a lot to discuss about the way the Department is handling Marcellus Shale operations,” White said. “Residents are simply asking DEP to do its job, and to make sure that they are accountable and responsive whenever problems arise. If DEP is truly doing everything as well as they claim, you would think they would welcome the opportunity to prove it in a public forum; their refusal to do so really says quite a bit about the DEP’s lack of commitment to transparency and public accountability.”
The House Democratic Policy Committee, chaired by state Rep. Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster, hosts public hearings across the state to help judge the impact that state policies and legislation have at regional levels. The hearings provide lawmakers with public input on the House Democratic Caucus’ policy initiatives.
An email sent to DEP Director of Communications Katherine Gresh seeking comment Wednesday morning was not immediately returned.