DEP, “Don’t Expect Protection”
Some frustrated residents and anti-fracking activists are finding new names to call the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) — “Don’t Expect Protection,” “Department of Energy Production” — according to Dana Dolney of ShaleTest, a nonprofit that provides free air and water quality testing for low-income residents near natural gas wells.
The department is taking heat for providing what critics see as incomplete water quality test results to property owners who are concerned about pollution from nearby fracking operations. Withholding such information, the critics say, could endanger residents’ health.
“Based on what is happening in the Marcellus Shale, we saw a huge desperate need for this kind of testing,” Dolney said. “We wouldn’t have to do what we do if it wasn’t for the failures of the DEP.”
The DEP and natural gas companies are defending the testing methods, asserting that the contaminants most likely to be associated with fossil fuel extraction are included in what is shared with the DEP and, subsequently, with homeowners.
Still, critics suggest the purported “filtering” of testing data is just one of the ways people are left in the dark about the assortment of heavy metals and other toxic contaminants that may be in their air and water as a result of drilling, hydraulic fracturing and other phases of natural gas production. Recent studies have identified more than 600 chemicals used throughout the process of natural gas production, and often left undisclosed by companies. Additionally, natural but equally hazardous substances can be released from the wells.
Not telling people the information you don’t want them to have is lying. It’s just easier to justify to yourself. This is what happens when an agency is captured by the industry it is supposed to regulate.