Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Neutering of the DCNR

How would you go about rendering a governmental department useless or make it more amiable to your policies while still preserving the façade of operating in the public interests?

1.       Appoint a Director or Secretary who is in agreement with your policies, or will follow those policies regardless of personal views.
2.       Cut the budget for that department which will result in loss of staff and resources needed for optimal management and operations.
3.       Create a work environment which will force out those in opposition to the policies.  If they do not leave in protest – fire them.
4.        Public Relation events to maintain the façade and distract the public from what is really being done.
This is what is happening at the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).

1.       Richard J Allen was appointed as DCNR Secretary in March 2011, and confirmed by the PA Senate in June 2011.
2.       2011-2012: DCNR’s budget fell from $82 million to $55 million, a reduction of 33%. The bulk of these decreases are in state park and state forest operations.   However, DCNR could make up the budget reduction by leasing our state parks for gas drilling.
Mr. Allan, a Luzerne County native, is at the helm of an agency set to receive $69 million from the separate Oil and Gas Lease Fund in fiscal 2012-13 to help support operation of state parks and forests and other administrative functions. This fund collects rents and royalties paid by oil and gas firms drilling on state forest land. The fund has been tapped for decades to pay for a wide range of conservation and recreation projects under terms of a 1955 law, but since 2009 a significant chunk of fund revenue has gone to prop up DCNR's budget.

A total of 152 wells are producing gas in state forests while another 442 wells have been drilled, said Mr. Allan. About half of the 1.5 million acres of state forest land in the Marcellus Shale formation has been leased to drillers.           
3.       Dr. Paulette Viola, a professor of ecology at Slippery Rock University, resigned as a member of Conservation and Natural Resources Advisory Council (CNRAC) in September 2012.  She cited public input and advice from council members were no longer valued and CNARC being unable to work effectively with DCNR Secretary as reasons for her resignation.

As you well know the degradation of council is a result of multiple actions. They include the:
1) loss of council’s independence as an advisory body,
2) removal of the executive director’s position,
3) reassignment of council’s secretary,
4) extremely disproportionate budget reduction,
5) low response time for requested information,
6) quality of information that is eventually shared and
7) displayed hostile atmosphere created by the administration for public input during a council meeting
Viola’s resignation was soon followed by the October 2012 “resignation” of State Parks Director John Norbeck.  Technically, Norbeck did resign after being given a termination notice or the choice of resigning.          
In a phone interview from his home Sunday, Mr. Norbeck, 56, said he received a termination letter from the state's human resources office on Oct. 1, informing him that his last day of work would be Friday, Oct. 5, but "if he wanted to tender his resignation it would be considered."
On Wednesday he agreed to resign and asked for, and was granted, a two-week extension, through Oct. 19, to prepare a transition document for a new parks director.
Mr. Norbeck said he wasn't told why the administration wanted him out. The closest anyone came, he said, was when Adam Gingrich, an executive assistant to DCNR Secretary Richard J. Allan, said the "administration has decided to go in a different direction."
Although Mr. Norbeck said he didn't know of any one issue that caused the administration to sour on him, he cited several on which he differed with it.
Norbeck is known to be an opponent of drilling in state parks.
Prior to Viola and Norbeck’s resignations:
The head of a citizens advisory panel for the state’s parks and forests has been canned, purportedly to cut down on costs. But one member and Natural Resources committee says that’s baloney, reports the Associated Press:
Eric Martin, one of two remaining original council members, accused the administration of trying to pre-empt public oversight of gas drilling on forest land.

"Aside from what we the council feel was an illegal firing, this is a clear message from the executive suite regarding citizen paper in an e-mail. “Funny that one of our hot topics is Marcellus Shale."

4.       PA Gov. Corbett takes a Kayak Trip and promotes nature.
"Here in the Pocono Mountains, there is a long tradition of defending the Delaware," Corbett said. "Because of that awareness, there is also a tradition of enjoying the waters, mountains, lakes and trails.

"We want clean rivers, lakes, skies and forests to leave to our children and grandchildren," Corbett said. "Each of us has a role to play in that cause. And if we all do, this region and this river will bring us not only prosperity, but joy."
Meanwhile, behind closed doors, the DCNR is in “discussions” with Anadarko Petroleum Corporations of Woodlands TX, to “develop” the Loyalsock State Forest and at the same time Anadarko is staking out drilling locations along the Old Loggers Path.  
"DCNR has given us permission to perform preliminary survey studies, which includes staking the area to show where development locations could be and guide our environmental assessment of the area," Mary B. Wolf, an Anadarko spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.
The Old Loggers Path is a 27-mile loop which the DCNR describes as having “stunning vistas and clear, cold cascading streams.”  The area also includes Rock Run stream which the DCNR has touted as being “exceptional”.  
"Few streams in Pennsylvania can match Rock Run's rich tapestry of deep, crystal-clear pools, cascading waterfalls and massive, weathered rock formations," an agency official said in a 2008 DCNR news release.

Say good-bye to the stunning vistas, crystal-clear pools, cascading waterfalls and massive rock formations, they will soon be replaced by bare dirt, cement pads, frackwater pools, drilling spills and massive drill rigs.

See DCNR webpage on Natural Gas Drilling.   They are tearing down a forest to put up an industrial zone.

Appeals by public groups for information on the drilling plans and requests for hearings have been ignored.

DCNR says the issue is not open to discussion.  Neutering complete.
Rep. Camille George (D-Clearfield), Minority Chair of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, Tuesday called for a hearing into the resignation of John Norbeck as director of the Bureau of State Parks within the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
”If smoke indicates fire, this has turned into an inferno,” Rep. George said. “We need to get to the bottom of this, and quickly.”Rep. George noted that the House Environmental Resources & Energy Committee has not held a voting meeting in more than four months.“Many important environmental and energy issues are begging for attention, including the need for stronger oversight over deep injection wells for Marcellus waste water and bolstering pre-drilling water quality surveys near proposed Marcellus shale gas wells,” Rep. George said. “The days are getting shorter, but that doesn’t mean our attention span to critical issues should wane.”

© 2012 by Dory Hippauf

No comments:

Post a Comment