Throughout Pennsylvania’s natural gas boom, state environmental regulators have been behind the times when it comes to technology.
As head of the state Department of Environmental Protection, Secretary John Quigley often complains that gas workers get to carry iPads in the field, while his staff is stuck with paper and clipboards. One of his top priorities is to bring the agency into the 21st century.
Nearly a decade after Apple launched the iPhone, DEP staff is just now getting permission to add apps to their government-issued iPhones.
This is good news for Scott Perry, who heads the agency’s Oil and Gas bureau. For example, he says inspectors at gas sites can now use apps to help them with their jobs.
“So our folks could put decibel meters on their phones and understand if they’re dealing with a noise problem,” says Perry.
Sitting in his office on the top floor of the Rachel Carson Building—DEP’s Harrisburg headquarters—he sees more positive changes on the horizon.
“We’re looking at putting Wi-Fi in this building,” he says. “We do not have Wi-Fi.”
DEP Secretary John Quigley says no one ever pushed for it before.
“There has been such a turning away from technology over the last decade in the agency because of budget cuts—just relentless year-after-year budget cuts,” he says.
He’s not the first secretary to notice problems. His predecessor, Chris Abruzzo, who was appointed by Republican Governor Tom Corbett, publicly complained the agency’s website looked like “Encyclopedia Britannica” when he took over. “It did not engage the public. We’ve tried very hard to overhaul that website.”
But what use is a good website if you can’t connect to the internet?
###This story comes from our content partner StateImpact Pennsylvania, a collaboration between WITF and WHYY covering the fiscal and environmental impact of Pennsylvania’s booming energy economy.