An update on the hearing held last night in Harrisburg. The state’s top environmental official is calling for an increase in gas drilling permit fees in order to get some more funding for inspectors. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports,
John Hanger, acting secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, told lawmakers that his existing staff cannot handle the dramatic expansion of drilling in the rich gas fields that lie beneath most of Pennsylvania.
Hanger, testifying before the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, said the agency, seeking to balance environmental concerns with economic opportunity, needs additional employees to conduct permit reviews and well-site inspections.
To pay for 60 new staffers, Hanger wants to increase the $100 per-well fee, a figure set in the 1980s when gas production was low. Hanger said the agency had not yet determined the amount of the increase but that it would be based on budget needs.
Gas industry representatives told the committee that the backlog, along with additional permits DEP has imposed on operations in the Marcellus Shale formation, are slowing the process and creating a climate of uncertainty.
“Can’t handle the dramatic expansion in drilling…” Sound familiar? In this state, the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission is responsible for issuing drilling permits. ADEQ is charged with protecting the waters of the state, which means conducting inspections of drilling and disposal sites to make sure gas companies are doing their part to protect the environment. At this point, they’re a little short-handed. Game and Fish has said they would fund an additional four inspectors for ADEQ to the tune of $350,000 (out of nearly $30 million G & F will receive as a signing bonus on the lease).
After news of the hearing broke, I called Doug Szenher at ADEQ to see if there were any talks, either internally or in conjunction with the AOGC, to potentially raise permit fees in order to fund more inspectors. He said ADEQ does not have any plans to seek an increase in permit fees at this time.