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Wolf Taps Former DEP Chief Hanger to Planning Post

Pennsylvania Gov.-elect Tom Wolf has selected John Hanger, a former secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and a one-time Democratic candidate for governor, to serve as his secretary of planning and policy.

Wolf also tapped Mary Isenhour to serve as secretary of legislative affairs, and Obra Kernodle IV to serve as deputy chief of staff and director for the Office of Public Liaison, according to a statement posted Wednesday on Wolf's transition website.

"As governor, I intend to get things done on behalf of all the people of Pennsylvania," Wolf said. “These senior members of my team will be key to this mission because they are seasoned and have deep relationships on both sides of the aisle.”

The Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC) offered praise for Hanger's appointment.

"Mr. Hanger absolutely understands the clear and undeniable benefits tied to responsible shale development," said MSC President Dave Spigelmyer. "We congratulate him on this new role and look forward to working collaboratively with him, as we did during his tenure as DEP secretary, where he was a strong natural gas advocate."

During his tenure as head of the DEP -- from 2008 to 2011, and under another Democratic governor, Ed Rendell -- Hanger had a front-row seat to witness the beginning of the shale revolution and in particular the development of the Marcellus Shale.

Hanger previously served, from 1993 to 1998, as a commissioner to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC), having been appointed by Democratic Gov. Robert Casey. He also served as president of the advocacy group Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future (PennFuture).

Wolf defeated Republican incumbent Gov. Tom Corbett in last month's gubernatorial election (see Shale Daily, Nov. 5). Hanger declared his candidacy for the office in November 2012 as a Democrat but withdrew in March, two months before the primary in May, which Wolf won (see Shale Daily, March 13; Daily GPI, Nov. 28, 2012).

One of the major issues of the gubernatorial campaign -- and one that is sure to move on to the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania General Assembly -- is whether the state should enact a severance tax on gas production or keep the current impact fee enacted by Act 13, the state's omnibus Marcellus Shale law. Wolf supports a 5% tax on natural gas production. During his campaign for governor, Hanger said he supported a severance tax and a moratorium on drilling on state-owned lands (see Shale Daily, Jan. 28).

Although Hanger has been in private practice at the law firm of Eckert Seamans since his departure from the DEP, he has never been far from the politics of the day.

Last July, Hanger said Corbett's decision to cut Pennsylvania's share of funding to the Delaware River Basin Commission amounted to "retaliation" for the commission's failure to enact rules governing oil and gas development in the basin (see Shale Daily, July 21).

In 2013, Hanger blasted Corbett's decision to tap E. Christopher Abruzzo as acting secretary of the DEP after Michael Krancer's departure (see Shale Daily, March 23, 2013). He also criticized Corbett for accepting $20,000 in gifts from business executives and lobbyists. Abruzzo was forced to resign from his post in October after his involvement in a sexually explicit email scandal was revealed (see Shale Daily, Oct. 3).

Hanger also signaled support for the Center for Sustainable Shale Development and its certification process in 2013 (see Shale Daily, March 25, 2013).

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