Manpower Shortage Impacting Pollution Investigations
15 July 2014
By Bob Frye
HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission officers
haven't been issuing many citations for Marcellus shale pollution
It's not been for a lack of effort.
The problem has been a lack of manpower, said Corey Brichter,
chief of the agency's law enforcement bureau. The commission is
short 16 waterways conservation officers, meaning those left are
sometimes covering multiple districts. They can't be everywhere,
Brichter told commission board members at their quarterly meeting
The law enforcement bureau “believes many more violations are
occurring but does not have the resources to effectively patrol
active sites,” he said.
Officers, who stock fish and perform boating safety patrols among
other responsibilities, are investigating only pollution incidents
reported to the commission. Oftentimes, by the time they arrive at
the remote sites, evidence has been destroyed or washed
downstream, he said.
“There's a lot more we could be doing,” Brichter said.
The commission is recruiting new officers and hopes to begin
training cadets next year. But it will take a year for them to be
ready for field assignment, the commission said, by which time
additional officers may have retired.
What the commission needs is a cadre of officers assigned
specifically to work Marcellus shale and pollution cases, said
executive director John Arway. He's hoping state lawmakers will
The commission gets $1 million annually in Marcellus shale impact
fees. That has allowed the agency to hire six people who review
gas-well permits and the like. The money can be spent only in that
The commission would like an additional $1 million to hire seven
officers — one supervisor and six field staff, spread across the
state — for enforcement work, Arway said. The commission asked for
that before and didn't get it.
Lawmakers are talking about revisiting the impact fee or replacing
it with a Marcellus shale severance tax, said Tim Schaeffer, the
commission's deputy director for policy and planning. The hope is
the commission might get money for the new officers as part of
possible changes that result, he said.
The need for better enforcement is real, said commissioner Bill
Sabatose of Elk County, who added he's “disgusted” by what's going
“There are a lot of pollution cases, and we're not there. But it's
not our fault,” Sabatose said. “We just don't have the people.”
Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at
firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.