On Friday, Gov. Tom Wolf proposed Department of Environmental Protection permitting reforms and staffing increases to improve permit review and oversight.
The proposals — including a $2.5 million increase for additional DEP staff — signal a welcome priority as we head into the budget season.
This comes after DEP has seen a decade of decline, especially under the previous administration. In the past 10 years, General Fund support for DEP staff levels has decreased by 43 percent; leading to oversight concerns as increased demand, especially by the gas industry, has been met with dwindling resources.
The permitting backlog that has resulted from insufficient staff has been a topic of contention for the oil and gas industry and for many of my Republican counterparts. Yet their answer has been to simply decrease regulations and assume approvals, rather than provide the resources necessary to responsibly review all permits and concerns.
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A well-funded and efficient DEP is in the best interest of both the environment and the oil and gas industry. While the latter is an important financial resource in this state, as legislators, we have a constitutional obligation to protect and preserve the former. I hope that my colleagues in the state House and Senate, on both sides of the aisle, remember this when it comes time to pass a budget this summer.
We have the opportunity to capture and use this valuable precious resource, and we have an obligation to protect our environment for this and future generations.
Madeleine Dean, Abington
The writer is the state representative for the 153rd Legislative District in Montgomery County.