Monday, May 30, 2011

Feds, State Officials Meet on Criminal Enforcment of Drilling

Oversight of, or enforcement against Marcellus Shale gas drillers might call to mind the federal Environmental Protection Agency or the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
Last week in State College more than 200 federal, state and local law enforcement officers, prosecutors and environmental officials from Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia and Ohio participated in a 2-day Marcellus Shale Law Enforcement Training Conference.

The conference focused on potential environmental impacts and law enforcement issues arising from the rapid expansion of drilling in the Marcellus Shale region.

Ignacio Moreno, Assistant Attorney General at the Justice Department, said oil and gas extraction is occurring with increasing frequency......
"We must ensure that all laws intended to protect human health, sources of drinking water, wildlife and the environment are well understood and enforced to mitigate any potential adverse effects."

According to David Hickton, U.S. Attorney for Western Pennsylvania, the conference provided an overview of state and federal requirements that companies and subcontractors must follow to ensure that workers, the public and the environment are not put at risk. Hickton says his office has a responsibility to prosecute environmental crimes....
"If the frack water (used to break the shale and released the gas) is not handled properly and, for example, is dumped without proper disposition, there would be potential criminal issues involved."

Hickton says cooperation with state and local law enforcement is imperative because the federal authorities "do not have enough boots on the ground to cover the entire state." He says one goal of the conference was to create a "force multiplier" where all law enforcement works together to enforce the various laws.
"I think the buzzword for our current approach is we're trying to be alert, informed and vigilant and the public should know we're going to do our part to protect the law so that whatever is done with Marcellus Shale is done legally and appropriately."