I've been reporting on Marcellus Shale for three years now -- long enough to make several contacts at the Department of Environmental Protection, the lead agency in charge of regulating the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania.
Back in the days of former Gov. Ed Rendell, to reach someone in the DEP, all a reporter needed was a phone number. Since the swearing-in of Gov. Tom Corbett, it's gotten a whole lot tougher.
Two of my sources at the DEP confirmed they were told they are no longer allowed to talk with reporters. Calls to other DEP regulators have been returned by Dan Spadoni, the DEP's community relations coordinator.
When asked if the DEP had been told to restrict access to its staff or had instituted a policy doing so, Spadoni did not address whether a change had been made, but replied:
"In order to provide reporters with the most factual and timely information about a subject that sometimes involves more than one DEP program, we prefer that contact is made with either the regional Community Relations Coordinators or our Communications Office staff in Harrisburg. It is their responsibility as professionals to obtain the information you need and, most importantly, present it to you in non-technical language so that you and your readers can easily understand it . There may be certain cases where we can accommodate a reporter’s request to speak directly to technical staff, and we look at those requests on an individual basis. The bottom line is that your questions are answered correctly."