Last month I sent out a press release asking about the testimony given under oath in depositions by two high-ranking officials at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
These officials testified the DEP is using a system of codes, called ‘Suite Codes’ to limit the information given to landowners who have their water tested if there is a suspicion of contamination near a natural gas drilling site.
Instead of addressing the damning words of his own employees, DEP Secretary Krancer released two separate responses. He went to great pains to avoid addressing the specific issues, instead resorting to personal attacks and misdirection. He ignored what’s really important, which is making sure the people of Pennsylvania get all the facts they need to know if their air and water are safe or not.
My own experiences with DEP and the situation at Cornerstone Care exposed a startling lack of transparency with information the public has a right to know. The DEP still refuses to release the 400 pages of data from tests conducted while people were getting very sick at the health clinic. The fact that DEP has gone to such lengths to hide the facts should make us all suspicious.
Despite the response from the DEP or anyone else, this isn’t personal and it certainly isn’t something that should be ignored. I have read the depositions. I speak to dozens of landowners every week, many of whom are leaseholders who have no faith whatsoever in DEP and are afraid to trust anyone anymore. This is about getting the public the answers and facts, plain and simple.
So instead of stooping down to the attack level, I wrote a response to DEP Sec. Michael Krancer last week with 10 specific questions I believe the public deserves to have answered. These aren’t trick questions; they’re fair and well-reasoned, and if the DEP under the Corbett administration is truly operating on the level, they should be easy to answer.
Here are the questions. I will certainly let everyone know when or if I get an answer.
1. Who specifically at DEP develops the Suite Codes used to determine which data is reported and what guidelines are used by DEP in determining which Suite Code is to be used in a given situation?
2. Aside from Suite Codes 942 and 946, are there any other Suite Codes that have been developed by DEP to be used for issues related to Marcellus Shale or other unconventional natural gas drilling?
3. In light of the testimony given under oath by DEP Water Quality Specialist John Carson revealing a lack of training, what are the specific training programs used to train DEP field staff in regards to water impact from Marcellus Shale drilling operations and how to properly collect water samples?
4. How many water quality tests for suspected impact or contamination from Marcellus Shale or unconventional natural gas drilling has DEP performed since 2005, and how many of those had an analysis Suite Code run on the results? Please be specific with regards to tests per year and which Suite Code was applied.
5. Is a landowner entitled to the full quality assurance/quality control and/or other raw data from water quality testing the DEP has conducted? If so, what must they do to obtain said data, and if not, what specific provision in the lawprevents them from obtaining the information?
6. If the DEP laboratory found evidence of heavy or toxic metals in a water sample, but the field agent had used a Suite Code such as 942 or 946 to prevent that data from coming across the ‘functional wall’ between DEP field staff and labs, how would a landowner be made aware of the problem?
7. Of the heavy metals tested for under EPA Standard 200.7 but not reported under Suite Codes 942 or 946 (silver, aluminum, beryllium, cadmium, cobalt, chromium, copper, nickel, silicon, molybdenum, tin, titanium, vanadium and boron), does the DEP lab have accurate quality assurance/quality control data available to verify levels?
8. As Secretary of DEP and as a Pennsylvania resident, would you feel comfortable drinking or bathing in water where there is a suspicion of contamination without knowing the levels of silver, aluminum, beryllium, cadmium, cobalt, chromium, copper, nickel, silicon, molybdenum, tin, titanium, vanadium and boron? If not, how could you reasonably expect any other Pennsylvanian to feel the same way?
9. Will DEP release the 400 pages of raw testing data taken in June 2012 from the Cornerstone Care health clinic in Washington County, and if not, why?
10. Why is the policy of DEP to give residents anything less than 100 percent of the available data when looking at possible water impact or contamination, regardless of the source? What purpose does anything less than full disclosure serve?