Activists worry about Corbett as drilling watchdog

    The natural gas industry in Pennsylvania will have to follow stricter rules when it comes to drilling wells. State regulators approved a set of new regulations meant to protect residents from water contamination. But current regulators and environmentalists worry Pennsylvania’s incoming Republican Governor won’t be a vigilant watch-dog.

    Drilling in parts of Pennsylvania has contaminated some residential water supplies with natural gas. The state Department of Environmental Protection proposed new standards for design, materials and monitoring. The new rules passed a hurdle on Thursday with a unanimous vote from the Independent Regulatory Review Commission.

    John Hanger is Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection. Hanger will likely be out of a job come January when Republican governor-elect Tom Corbett takes office.

    Hanger worries whether those new rules he helped create will be enforced by the new administration. He points to the almost $1 million in donations the gas industry poured into Corbett’s campaign.

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    “The drilling industry didn’t make those contributions as a charitable donation,” Hanger said.   “Those were business investments and it worries me when industry invests that heavily in any elected official let alone a Governor of the state who is in charge of policing that industry,” he said.

    Hanger defended his own record of oversight, saying he’s completely re-written the rules for water treatment and doubled the number of staff in charge of inspections.

    Attorney General Tom Corbett has consistently argued drilling contributions won’t influence his decisions as governor. He points to campaign contributions he received from several lawmakers and staffers who he later charged with corruption.

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