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editorial

Interdisciplinary and cross-media huh?


September 29, 2011

Last week, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) sent out a press release touting a new reorganization initiative. Also last week, the Pike County Conservation District (PCCD) discussed the problems related to the oversight and enforcement of natural gas pipeline construction. These two events, in two very different ways, cast light on what is becoming an increasingly critical question in our area: are the bodies charged with ensuring the viability of our habitat willing and able to do what is necessary to see that it is protected from degradation?

Perusing the DEP press release to determine what the reorganization might actually mean for the department’s eponymous mission, i.e. protecting the environment, we found ourselves occasionally baffled, as in learning that the “interdisciplinary and cross-media approach to environmental regulation” was going to be boosted. (We asked DEP about it, and were told it means that programs within the agency need to talk to one another and work together.) But what about this: “[DEP Secretary Mike] Krancer said DEP will make decisions based on facts and sound science by providing enhanced, unified oversight to the natural gas industry.” In what way can it be argued that decisions based on facts and science (something we would certainly wholeheartedly support) are enabled by providing unified oversight of the natural gas industry? We see no relationship, logical or causal, between the two concepts.

Indeed, it has been our observation that, when applied to regulations, terms like “unified” and “consistent,” concepts stressed in the document, are code words for “making a smooth path for industrial development.” The idea is that the most important thing is to create a level playing field throughout the state so that gas companies don’t have to worry about complying with a variety of different rules. We can understand why that’s good for business. But we don’t get why it’s necessarily good for the environment. Nor does it relate to science-based decisions. It relates to money-based decisions.