The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has terminated the Beaver County Conservation District’s (BCCD) authority to conduct inspections and provide permitting for pipeline construction in the county.
The BCCD had recently approved permits for several significant pipeline projects, including one that exploded in Center Township last year.
The agency is more widely known in Beaver County as sponsor of the annual Maple Syrup Festival held at the Bradys Run Lodge.
The BCCD became a subject of controversy in July 2017, when County Commissioner Sandie Egley resigned from its board over concerns about the agency’s poor record keeping and financial instability.
“It’s my opinion that the management of the District and the way it is structured has been a financial drain,” Egley said at the time.
Commissioner Dan Camp had attempted to make political hay out of Egley’s decision and issued a statement in 2017 that he would assume the seat reserved for a county commissioner on the BCCD’s board.
“In my opinion this isn’t something a Commissioner should stray away from, but should embrace and continue to work with the Beaver County Conservation District to make sure there is a financial plan in place,” Camp said.
“I will be replacing Commissioner Egley on the Beaver County Conservation District board and will work diligently with (Executive Director) Jim Shaner and his staff to improve their financial stability.”
But according to two county employees who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, Camp failed to follow through with his vibrato and had “abandoned” the BCCD, not attending any of its meetings or providing any support to the agency since being appointed to its board.
Camp admitted to BeaverCountian.com today he hasn’t been attending BCCD meetings.
“I read all the minutes and I contacted them numerous times for different things, but the meeting is 9:00 a.m. on Monday mornings,” said Camp.
“No, I haven’t been attending them.”
DEP had delegated authority to BCCD to conduct the work as part of its erosion and sediment control (E&S) program, which is involved in pipeline approval, but said in a statement the state agency’s Field Operations team would now assume those duties in Beaver County.
DEP cited BCCD’s poor record keeping, insufficient training, and a failure to conduct required inspections as the rationale behind its decision.
Among the projects previously approved by the BCCD was the Revolution pipeline operated by Energy Transfer LP, which blew open and exploded on Sept. 10, 2018 in Center Township after heavy rain caused soil erosion.
“We need to ensure that our delegated authority is being administered in a responsible way that meets our legal obligations and the responsibilities we have to the people of Pennsylvania. DEP staff identified significant and consistent problems with BCCD’s recordkeeping, permit review, and inspections,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell.
The decision follows a scathing audit conducted of BCCD in April. Among the audit’s findings included a serious notation about the BCCD’s review of the Falcon pipeline, which is slated to transport natural gas from Washington County, Ohio and West Virginia to the Shell ethylene cracker plant in Potter Township.
“Due to the overall lack of performance from the District, an overall rating of Unsatisfactory is being given. The poor records retention made a proper evaluation almost impossible,” auditors wrote.
“In addition … the Department is aware of situations in which the District has shown a lack of sound judgement in recent years.
“In one instance, the District reviewed and authorized a permit coverage form the Falcon pipeline project. This project traversed the (BCCD)’s property, where the (BCCD) received a payment for an easement across their property. The (BCCD) should have contacted the DEP Regional Office for guidance related to the potential conflict of interest.”
Conservation District Executive Director Jim Shaner and Board Chairman Mike Price did not immediately return detailed messages from BeaverCountian.com seeking comment.