How can state permits protect you?
Everyday community members like you can have a huge impact on the state’s decision to issue a permit or - if they do issue a permit - how stringent the permitted activity is.
The permitting agency, usually the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP), is tasked with issuing and enforcing most of the state permits for fracking activity.
Here are some ways you can have an impact on whether or not permits are issued
Participate in the review process
During certain parts of a permit review the PADEP is often required to take into account comments from the public. Even if they are not formally required, the PADEP will often take and consider information from community members that is relevant to the permitted activity. For example, the fracking company may not have included important information about historical contamination at a proposed site. The information about the previous contamination may lead to the PADEP requiring additional site surveys or studies that ultimately lead to a safer construction site.
Be a watchdog
The PADEP is often extraordinarily under-resourced and does not have nearly enough staff to inspect everyone of the sites that are permitted by their Oil and Gas section. If residents like yourself live near fracking activity you might want to become familiar with the contents of the permits for that activity. That way, if there are permit violations such as missing signs or inadequate erosion controls, you can document the violation and submit complaints to the PADEP. This helps them develop records and leads to a higher likelihood that formal action will be taken by the PADEP to bring the operator into compliance.
Understand the protections
There are various layers of rules that can serve as potential protections that fracking companies must adhere to. Activities are regulated on a state level by the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) who issue fracking activity permits and created the Chapter 78a regulations, which govern all fracking activities.
Find out if a company wants to develop in your area
If a company wants to frack in your community being involved in the PADEP permitting process is a line of defense you will want to become familiar and involved with. The public has the potential to be a very strong force in holding companies accountable to state safety regulations.