HARRISBURG — The Department of Environmental Protection and the Pennsylvania State Police have agreed to increase funding for inspections in the coming year that will ensure waste haulers are obeying state laws.
The unannounced roadside inspections, commonly known as FracNet and TrashNet, have removed hundreds of unsafe and illegally-operated waste vehicles from the roadways, including trucks operating in support of Marcellus Shale gas drilling operations.
“Pennsylvania is one of the largest importers of trash from other states and has also seen a dramatic increase in the number of vehicles hauling wastewater from Marcellus Shale drilling sites,” DEP Secretary John Hanger said. “This partnership with the state police has proven to be an effective method in addressing waste hauling safety and compliance issues throughout the state, and in putting drilling operators and their contractors on notice that we expect them to comply with our laws.”
The two agencies have signed a memorandum of understanding that provides funding to the state police from the Waste Transportation Safety Account, which is supported by fees, fines and penalties paid by the waste-hauling industry. The agreement will enable both agencies to conduct roadside inspections with increased frequency and duration.
“We’re pleased to resume our working relationship with our counterparts in the DEP,” said State Police Commissioner Frank E. Pawlowski. “This year’s agreement will allow us to replicate and expand past enforcement operations as each agency shares the common goals of removing violators from our highways, improving public safety, and decreasing the potential for environmental hazards.”
In the first half of 2010, roadside inspections by the state police and DEP found that more than 40 percent of the large trucks serving the Marcellus Shale natural gas industry were operating in violation of state motor carrier safety regulations. Nationally, since 2006, the trucking industry averaged only a 23-30 percent out-of-service violation rate.
In June, a three-day enforcement effort involving DEP, state police, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and the federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration focused on trucks hauling waste water from Marcellus Shale gas drilling operations and resulted in 250 commercial vehicles being placed out of service for various vehicle safety deficiencies. Under a similar interagency agreement in 2009, state police and DEP inspected more than 4,300 waste haulers along Pennsylvania roadways, placing 770 vehicles out of service and issuing 2,654 traffic citations.
During FracNet and TrashNet enforcement operations, DEP inspectors check to ensure that waste vehicles have proper signage and required authorizations, and that daily logs specifying the origin and type of waste are accurate and up-to-date. Vehicles are checked for weight and leakage, the presence of working fire extinguishers and to verify that loads are properly enclosed and secured.
State police teams check vehicle braking systems, exterior lighting and other equipment that plays a role in operational safety. They also check drivers for appropriate operator licenses.