Pa. environmental secretary stepping down

Michael Krancer has won some praise from the gas industry for his feistiness.
Michael Krancer has won some praise from the gas industry for his feistiness.
Posted: March 23, 2013

Michael Krancer, the Bryn Mawr lawyer who for more than two years has led the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, will step down as of April 15, becoming the fifth high official to leave the Corbett administration.

Gov. Corbett made the announcement Friday in a news release, praising Krancer as an "invaluable member of our team" whose "impressive efforts" had taken the agency back to basics and made permitting processes more efficient.

The dominant issue of his tenure was oversight of natural gas drilling, which often put him at odds with environmental groups. They claimed he was too cozy with the industry, although they say he was probably just following orders.

Krancer took back-to-back $10 million budget cuts without public complaint.

He also clashed with federal regulators when they stepped in.

PennFuture president George Jugovic Jr., a former DEP staffer, said that while Krancer was "dedicated" and bright, he required that Harrisburg staffers approve violation notices before they were issued, marking a "politicization of the decision-making process."

Myron Arnowitt, state director for Clean Water Action, said Krancer "seemed less interested in responding to residents and more interested in catering to gas industry needs."

The industry, meanwhile, praised Krancer for his "constructiveness and pragmatism."

Kathryn Klaber, chief executive of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, said that "under his leadership, Pennsylvania has implemented world-class regulatory requirements for the industry, and responsible natural gas production has soared."

Jake Smeltz, president of the Electric Power Generation Association, called Krancer "a great example of a firm but fair environmental regulator." He said Krancer was key in helping the Homer City coal-fired power plant comply with new rules "so it could remain in operation and continue to be an economic asset" to the state and Indiana County.

Krancer, 55, said that "serving Gov. Corbett and DEP has been the greatest honor of my career." He will return to his former law firm, Blank Rome L.L.P., an international firm based in Philadelphia that has contributed to Corbett.

A firm release said Krancer would chair its energy, petrochemical, and natural resources practice.

Krancer said his primary motive in leaving was his family. Two sons are now grown, but one daughter is in ninth grade and the other, in 11th, is visiting colleges next week.

"That brings it home to a parent right away, about how fleeting and temporary" time with one's children is, Krancer said.

He said he had been living away from home, in a Harrisburg flat.

Recently, Krancer sparred with legislators when he would not say whether climate change was occurring.

And he became embroiled in disagreements over whether the DEP was properly reporting test results to thousands of residents who suspected their water wells had been contaminated by natural gas drilling.

One legislator who became involved in the dispute, State Rep. Jesse White (D., Washington), said Krancer's legacy would be "one of controversy, political games and personal attacks."

Former DEP Secretary John Hanger, a Democrat now running for governor against Corbett, said Krancer's resignation "reveals a crucial state agency in crisis."

He and others complained that Krancer's interim replacement, Chris Abruzzo, a deputy chief of staff in the governor's office, has no environmental background. He previously supervised the Attorney General's Drug Strike Force section.

"It is telling that there is no one at DEP to take over the agency," Hanger said. "Morale at DEP is at devastatingly low levels."Other leaders who have left the Corbett administration include Inspector General Kenya Mann Faulkner, Health Secretary Eli Avila, Welfare Secretary Gary Alexander, and Chief of Staff Bill Ward.


Contact Sandy Bauers at 215-854-5147, sbauers@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @sbauers. Read her blog, GreenSpace, at www.philly.com/greenspace

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