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Delaware gets bit by Krancer "dog" remark

Environmental group calls for apology after remark by state DEP head.

Ouch!  Is the contentious world of natural gas drilling taking a nasty turn?

Speaking at a meeting of the Wayne County Builders Association Tuesday afternoon, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Krancer apparently had strong words for the state of Delaware.

"Sometimes they smell like the tail of a dog," the Wayne Independent reported. "And it (the state) is shaped like a dog with a tail. This is the tail wagging the dog."

The Delaware Riverkeeper Network, an environmental organization, has demanded that Gov. Corbett issue an apology for the remark.

Putting aside speculation about what the tail of a dog smells like -- is this the tail of a wet dog, or the tail of a dog after it has ....? -- some background is in order here:

This has to do with natural gas drilling. A moratorium has been in effect throughout the Delaware River Basin, which includes several counties in northeastern Pennsylvania that are presumed to be gas-rich. The moratorium would have ended if the Delaware River Basin Commission, a state/federal agency charged with overseeing water quality and quantity issues, enacted rules to govern natural gas activities.

Members of the commission include Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York and a federal representative. It's an interesting group. Pennsylvania supports drilling, basically. New Jersey is not believed to have much in the way of natural gas under its soils, and its legislature is opposed to allowing natural gas drilling, but Gov. Christie supports it. New York has held off on allowing drilling until its rules are developed. And Delaware, also with no natural gas reserves to benefit from financially, nonetheless has a lot of Delaware River frontage that could be affected by a spill or broad degradation upstream.

So the commission hardly speaks with one voice in this matter.

Rules were proposed and debated. The commission received some 70,000 comments. The rules were revised. But then, the commission did not vote to adopt them. Many blamed Delaware's governor, which at more or less the final moment said he would vote against the proposed rules.

But smelling like a dog's tail?

The Riverkeeper Network called Krancer's remark a "disgraceful and embarrassing attack" on Delaware.

"There can be no justification for this kind of filthy and denigrating language targeted at the public officials and the citizens of an entire state, particularly when the efforts being spurned are those that are protecting the health and safety of citizens throughout the region," said Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper.

According to a report on StateImpact, Collin O'Mara, the head of Delaware's Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, said that other states share Delaware's concerns about drilling. "All other states dis­agree with Penn­syl­va­nia," he told StateImpact. "They all agree that we should have a sci­ence based, rig­or­ous reg­u­la­tory regime because the con­se­quences of fail­ing to do it well could be dev­as­tat­ing for years to come."

Krancer wasn't singling out Delaware. He also took a shot at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which has miffed state officials by stepping into the controversy about whether water supplies in Dimock, Pa., are contaminated.

According to the Independent's report, Krancer referred to the federal agency workers in their "ivory towers," and said that the DEP has "more in field experience."

Stay tuned.