Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett announced Friday that Michael Krancer, secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), will step down on April 15 and return to practice law in Philadelphia. But the decision to replace him on an interim basis with the governor’s deputy chief of staff is being derided by Krancer’s predecessor, John Hanger.

“Secretary Krancer has been an invaluable member of our team, and I am grateful for his service,” Corbett said. “His impressive efforts at DEP have taken the agency back to basics, protecting the environment and making the permitting process more efficient.”

E. Christopher Abruzzo will serve as acting DEP secretary until the governor names a successor to Krancer. The governor’s office said Abruzzo will hold both positions until a replacement is named. Meanwhile, Krancer will rejoin Blank Rome LLP as a partner and will chair the firm’s energy, petrochemical and natural resources practice.

Hanger blasted Abruzzo’s appointment, calling Corbett’s decision “bizarre and irresponsible. Mr. Abruzzo is unqualified to serve even for day as the secretary of the DEP,” Hanger told NGI. “It’s one of the most important jobs in state government. A lot can go wrong within one day at DEP, given its tremendous responsibilities for protecting the environment and ensuring public safety. It’s shocking to me that this agency is going to be led, even for a day, by somebody unqualified for the position. Frankly, it’s irresponsible.”

It was unclear if the news of Krancer stepping down was related to a StateImpact report on March 13 that said Corbett, during his tenure as state attorney general, and his wife accepted $15,447 in gifts from Blank Rome since 2007. Hanger accused the governor of accepting more than $20,000 in gifts.

“I don’t personally believe that Mr. Krancer is the main problem, I believe the governor himself is the problem,” Hanger said. “He’s lost the confidence of huge numbers of Pennsylvanians that the DEP will strongly regulate the gas industry. And that loss of public confidence is a disaster.”

Industry groups made no mention of Abruzzo’s appointment or the allegations of impropriety surrounding Corbett. Instead, they praised Krancer and said he was an objective leader of the DEP.

“We wish the secretary well as he moves on back to private practice,” Lou D’Amico, president of the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association (PIOGA), told NGI. Marcellus Shale Coalition CEO Kathryn Klaber added that Krancer’s “constructiveness and pragmatism have served our Commonwealth well.”

Krancer said he appreciated the opportunity to lead the DEP. “Serving Gov. Corbett and DEP has been the greatest honor of my career,” he said. “Pennsylvania is well on its way to becoming the focal point of an American energy revolution, and I am grateful to the governor for giving me this role in assuring that natural gas and energy development happen in an environmentally sound and responsible manner.”

With Krancer at the helm, the DEP enacted several regulatory changes that affected the oil and natural gas industry as the Marcellus Shale emerged as a production juggernaut (see NGI, March 11).

During Krancer’s tenure, the Bureau of Oil & Gas Management was elevated to become the Office of Oil & Gas Management with its own deputy secretary reporting directly to DEP administrators in Harrisburg (see NGI, Sept 26, 2011). The DEP also created two new bureaus: Environmental Cleanup and Brownfields under the Office of Waste, Air, Radiation and Remediation; and the Bureau of Conservation and Restoration under the Office of Water Management. DEP created two new offices as well: Pollution Prevention and Energy Assistance, and Program Integration.

In 2011, under orders from Corbett, Krancer told operators to stop delivering wastewater from natural gas extraction to treatment facilities, citing revised total dissolved solids regulations. He then targeted “slackers” that didn’t comply with the order (see NGI, May 30, 2011; April 25, 2011).

The next year, Pennsylvania’s omnibus Marcellus Shale law, Act 13, came into effect, as did the DEP’s new Permit Review Process and Decision Guarantee and Permit Coordination policies, which were designed to expedite the drilling permit application process (see NGI, Nov. 12, 2012; Feb. 20, 2012).

But Krancer will also be remembered for not shying away from confrontation, especially with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. He blasted the federal agency for its interest in regulating hydraulic fracturing, offering testimony several times that the practice was best regulated by the states (see NGI, June 4, 2012; Nov. 21, 2011). As Mitt Romney’s energy adviser during the 2012 presidential campaign, he leveled criticism against President Obama for his position on energy issues (see NGI, Sept. 24, 2012).

Krancer also went toe-to-toe with two state lawmakers over allegations that the DEP mishandled water samples in a contamination case and for a plan to enact a two-year moratorium on wastewater injection wells (see NGI, Nov. 19, 2012; Aug. 13, 2012). He also clashed with the Natural Resources Defense Council (see NGI, July 2, 2012), Duke University researchers and the New York Times (see NGI, June 13, 2011; March 7, 2011).

Corbett tapped Krancer to lead the DEP shortly after his election as governor in 2010 (see NGI, Jan. 17, 2011). Krancer had served as a judge on the state’s Environmental Hearing Board under former Govs. Tom Ridge and Ed Rendell. He made an unsuccessful run for a state Supreme Court seat in 2007.

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