Tom Corbett, the Governor-elect of Pennsylvania, has announced his choices to head the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), as well as a newly created Cabinet-level position to coordinate energy issues. Both individuals will have a key role in overseeing Pennsylvaniaâ€™s growing natural gas industry and the implementation of new regulations governing the gas drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
According to a report on ProPublica, Corbett, a Republican, has named Michael Krancer, a judge who has served on a state environmental court for both Democratic and Republican governors, to head the DEP. Krancer’s appointment requires approval by the state senate.
Corbett also chose Patrick Henderson for the newly created Cabinet-level position. Henderson is currently the director of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee. That committee is headed by Mary Jo White, who according to ProPublica, has supported expanding drilling operations and resisted some of the stricter regulations of the industry. Corbett’s website describes the position Henderson would hold as a “senior advisor” who “will ensure the execution of policy in the best interest of our energy and environmental needs.”
Finally, Corbett named John Hines, who is being promoted from within the department, and Jeff Logan, who served under former Gov. Tom Ridge, to DEP positions. (Incidentally, this past summer, two consulting firms belonging to ex-Governor Ridge signed one year contracts to serve as strategic advisers to the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry advocacy group. The contracts will net Ridgeâ€™s firms a total of $900,000 this year. Among other things, Ridgeâ€™s firms lobby the state legislature on Marcellus shale issues.)
Krancer’s appointment to the DEP is not seen as controversial by either environmentalists or the natural gas drilling industry, ProPublca said. David Masur, director of PennEnvironment , an environmental group said he was “reservedly optimistic” about Krancer as DEP head, but pointed out that in that role “he only does what his boss tells him to.”
Unfortunately, his boss will likely want the DEP to step back from a push towards more stringent regulation of the fracking industry. As weâ€™ve reported in the past, Governor-elect Corbett is a friend to the industry. His campaign received more than $800,000 in donations from natural gas drillers, and now it looks like that money was well spent. He is firmly opposed to any attempt to slap a gas-extraction tax on the industry, which means Pennsylvania will remain the largest gas-drilling state without such a tax. He has also promised to lift an existing order that prevents further leasing of state lands to gas drillers. Governor-elect Corbett even named Christine Toretti, a national GOP committeewoman and owner of a Pennsylvania drilling company, as co-chair of his transition team.
According to ProPublica, Corbett has been a frequent critic of the DEP. â€œI will direct the Department of Environmental Protection to serve as a partner with Pennsylvania businesses. communities and local governments,” Corbett says on his website. “It should return to its core mission protecting the environment based on sound science.”
The Marcellus Shale Coalition issued a statement praising the nominees and their “proven track records” of protecting the environment while promoting job growth, ProPublica said.