DEP's Fracking Record-Keeping Blocks Transparency

  • Empty water jugs used to haul clean water hang from a house in Washington County. Residents suspected nearby gas drilling as the culprit for their wells going bad. The DEP investigation concluded drilling was not to blame. Photo: Susan Phillips/StateImpact Pennsylvania

Here’s a key question amid Pennsylvania’s natural gas drilling boom: How is drilling affecting residential water wells? Researchers say data on that core question is spotty. But one Pennsylvania agency could hold the key to answering questions from both residents and scientists. The problem is, the state Department of Environmental Protection says it organizes its records only to “support our operations,” according to agency spokesman Kevin Sunday.

So a simple request that could shine light on at least how many cases of water contamination the DEP determined were due to gas drilling operations, turned into a protracted legal battle. In an open records case settled last year between DEP and the Scranton Times-Tribune, the Commonwealth Court criticized the DEP for poor record-keeping.

Continue reading...