State Senator Jim Ferlo of Pittsburgh says the Corbett Administration’s decision to call the changes in the way the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issues citations a “pilot program” rather than a permanent change does nothing to ease his fears. Last week a memo dictating that all citations for Marcellus Shale drilling violations be passed through the department’s top officials before they are issued was leaked to the media and immediately drew the ire of environmentalists and a slew of other groups that argued it was a “free pass” to the gas industry. The administration later called it a pilot program and said its intention was to make sure the drilling laws were being uniformly enforced. Ferlo says, “They got caught with their pants down, they got heavy criticism… I think basically it was 'lets get away with whatever we can get away with' and when they started getting criticism and it started to mount across the state you see this change in order…. Now we don’t know what to believe.”
Ferlo says the governor is building “a terrible profile” when it comes to issues surrounding the Marcellus Shale. He says the governor is misconstruing what he thinks is a mandate from the voters. “Just because he happened to win a gubernatorial election at the height of people’s angst and anger at the congress and the White House that somehow he’s gotten a free pass and can just run roughshod over then needs of Pennsylvania residents and our environment,” says Ferlo. The Senator says there are plenty of people who will not let that happen.
Ferlo says if the governor wants to make sure the rules are being uniformly enforced he should ask the Auditor General to look into the operations of the department. “We’re seeing the pattern of an imperial governor here,” says Ferlo. “What Dick Chaney was to big oil this governor seems to be to the Marcellus Shale industry.”
Ferlo says he will continue to push bills that would enact a severance tax and stop all new drilling in the state.