The revelation that the state Department of Environmental Protection isn't sure just how many Marcellus Gas wells are operating or ready to produce gas in the state doesn't generate much confidence in the agency that is supposed to look after the state's environment.
In particular, it adds an additional layer of uncertainty on the whole issue of the Marcellus Shale boom in the state, the predictions for windfalls for the economy, and whether the fees proposed in the already weak bills before the General Assembly would produce the sort of revenue needed to mitigate infrastructure and environmental damage linked to the industry.
An examination of DEP's Marcellus data by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette indicates that DEP data is missing for 495 gas wells in the Marcellus Field, or about 12 percent of the total wells - if the initial count by the state is to be believed.
Ironically, the situation is frustrating environmental groups, elected officials, and even the industry itself.
We'll admit that the DEP wasn't prepared to handle a drilling boom on the scale experienced in this gas field over the past three or four years, and an agency spokesman says the office will try harder to get accurate information.
It's not the first time calculations regarding the drilling boom have proven to be flawed. Several months ago the state downgraded its estimate of how many jobs have been created in the state by Marcellus exploration by refining its measurement parameters.
In the meantime, the public is left with the impression that the numbers that have been bandied about by all sides of Marcellus issues are suspect.