Major changes ahead for state DEP

Corbett working on reorganization

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The Corbett administration is working on a reorganization of the state Department of Environmental Protection that will change the administration of its oil and gas program as well as other environmental programs in Harrisburg and throughout the state.

Although the DEP didn't provide any details Tuesday, the Post-Gazette has learned that the department's regional and program directors will attend a briefing on the reorganization in Harrisburg soon, possibly as early as today.

One planned change involves the Bureau of Oil and Gas Management, which regulates the booming Marcellus Shale gas drilling industry. It will be moved from the oversight of the DEP's deputy director for mineral resources management and its field operations staff will no longer report to the department's regional directors.

There also will be changes at the deputy secretary level in the Waste, Air and Radiation Management program.

Sue Wilson, executive director of the DEP's Citizens Advisory Council, said the reorganization plan was under review by the governor's office last week.

"There's a reorganization coming, I know that for a fact because I've talked to people who are involved in the process," Ms. Wilson said. "We knew when the Corbett administration came in that they said they would be looking at the department so this really shouldn't be a surprise."

In response to specific questions about reorganization of DEP programs, deputy directors, changes in departmental responsibilities and the administration of the oil and gas program, department spokeswoman Katy Gresh issued a general statement, saying "DEP is always looking for ways to do our work more efficiently, get back to basics and focus on the priorities the governor outlined in his campaign."

Gov. Tom Corbett's office did not respond to a request for a comment.

Ms. Wilson said the planned reorganization is actually the second phase of changes.

In May, Mr. Corbett appointed Alisa Harris, formerly an environmental manager for Exelon Generation, an electric power producing company, to the then new position of special deputy secretary for external affairs. Ms. Harris fills the role of department liaison with community and industry stakeholders whose interests are affected by DEP programs and policies.

Changes in the Corbett administration's management of a variety of gas drilling and energy issues has raised concerns among environmental groups. DEP's Office of Energy and Technology Deployment already has been renamed and reorganized, and several of the department's renewable energy and energy conservation programs have been reassessed, scaled back or eliminated.


Don Hopey: dhopey@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1983.


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