Police officers issue citations, make arrests and take other actions to intercept speeders, shoplifters, muggers and thieves. Now imagine all those tickets and arrests being funneled to a political official, like a mayor or a council member, for approval before they can take effect.
Maybe life is different in your town, but we're convinced the public would lose its thin line of defense.
That's how Tom Corbett's Department of Environmental Protection wants to handle the enforcement of regulations on Marcellus Shale drilling. It's the latest example of the administration's coddling of an industry to the neglect of the public.
Under new rules emailed to DEP regional directors and the regulatory agency's Oil & Gas Bureau, state field inspectors and regional directors must obtain "final clearance" from DEP Secretary Michael Krancer, a political appointee, before issuing permits or pursuing enforcement actions. While a DEP spokeswoman said the new policy does not apply to permits, an email from a DEP regional director that was obtained by the Post-Gazette said it does.
The reason given by DEP for routing to Harrisburg all actions on Marcellus Shale enforcement is greater consistency. But if that's the case, why not run DEP enforcement actions on all of its regulatory areas -- indeed, all rule enforcements by all state agencies -- through a gubernatorial appointee sitting in the capital? Don't state residents deserve such "consistency" all across the board?
This attempt to give special treatment to the natural gas industry is blatant and outrageous. It will have a chilling effect on inspectors and regulators on the ground.
Perhaps Pennsylvanians should not be surprised, coming as this does after the drillers' generous donations to the Corbett campaign, the administration's plan to give another political appointee (the secretary for community and economic development) power to expedite any permit where job creation is involved, the stacking of the governor's Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission with industry executives and political contributors, and the governor's repeated attempts to shield the drillers from a severance tax.
Now the administration wants to give a political hire the chance to second-guess the professionals in the field -- the cops on the beat.
We think Tom Corbett the prosecutor would have had a problem with that. It's hard to believe Tom Corbett the governor doesn't.