Corbett picks Krancer, Alexander for cabinet posts

Michael Krancer
Michael Krancer
Posted: January 12, 2011

Gov.-elect Tom Corbett is nominating Michael Krancer, a Bryn Mawr lawyer whom governors of both parties have named to a state environmental board, to be Pennsylvania's next environmental protection secretary.

Krancer was one of two key cabinet picks Corbett announced Tuesday. He also named Gary Alexander, Rhode Island's former secretary of health and human services, as his welfare secretary.

Corbett said Krancer, 53, had worked with both parties and built a reputation for being "fair, practical, speedy, and intellectual."

If approved by the state Senate, Krancer will take over the 3,000-employee environmental agency at a critical juncture. Its funding has been cut in recent years and its staff reduced. Yet its mission and duties have broadened as it wrestles with environmental issues arising from the lucrative extraction of natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation.

The nomination drew favorable comment from environmentalists and industry alike.

Jan Jarrett, head of the environmental advocacy group PennFuture, praised Krancer for his "unparalleled knowledge of environment laws and regulations," and said he could be "the 'cop on the beat' that Pennsylvania citizens need, and Tom Corbett promised, in the job of environmental protection and enforcement."

Kathryn Klaber, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, said the industry group looked forward to working with Krancer as well as Corbett's other "capable" designees.

Douglas Biden, president of the Electric Power Generation Association, which represents the state's electric industry, said that as a hearing board judge, Krancer's decisions had been "fair and balanced."

Krancer also has been an Exelon Corp. lawyer. In that role, Biden said, he displayed a rare "depth of knowledge of the technical, economic, and political dimensions of the air- and water-quality issues affecting our industry."

David Masur, director of PennEnvironment, said he was encouraged by Krancer's experience and "support from both sides of the aisle."

Krancer serves on the state Environmental Hearing Board, which handles trials and appeals of environmental disputes. Gov. Tom Ridge put him on the board in 1999; four years later, Gov. Rendell named him its chief judge and chairman.

Krancer ran for the state Supreme Court in 2007. He was assistant general counsel for Exelon from 2008 to 2009, then Rendell renominated him to the hearing board. He has also been a partner in two politically well-connected Philadelphia law firms - Dilworth Paxson and Blank Rome.

Alexander, 42, Corbett's pick for secretary of public welfare, would move from overseeing 3,000 employees to 17,000 if the state Senate confirms him.

While some lauded Alexander for brokering a first-of-its-kind Medicaid waiver program in Rhode Island, others denigrated it as wrongheaded.

Under President George W. Bush's administration, states could save money if they agreed to a cap on Medicaid spending. During Alexander's watch, Rhode Island was one of a handful of states to enter into such an agreement. Other states were reluctant to do so because they would risk receiving fewer benefits for citizens, critics said.

"Rhode Island anticipated saving hundreds of millions of dollars, but wound up saving only $10 million," said Richard Weishaupt, a lawyer with Community Legal Services in Philadelphia and an expert in health law. "He threw Medicaid into tumult and produced very little."

But Berks County child advocate Cathleen Palm praised Alexander's launch of a program that helped poor and vulnerable Rhode Island families with newborns get nursing aid, and his efforts to prevent child abuse.

Alexander faces a daunting job, Weishaupt said. "Pennsylvania has seen an 8.4 percent increase in people on Medicaid since January 2007, during the economic downturn," he said.

Alexander is a lawyer and an ordained deacon in the Armenian Orthodox Church of Providence.

In Pennsylvania, DPW oversees Medicaid, federal cash-assistance (welfare) and food-stamp programs, and licensing of child-care facilities and services for the physically and mentally disabled, as well as people with autism.


Contact staff writer Sandy Bauers at 215-854-5147 or sbauers@phillynews.com.

Visit her blog at http://go.philly.com/greenspace

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