The head of Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection, Michael Krancer, announced today he will be leaving the agency on April 15 to return to Blank Rome, an influential Philadelphia law firm where he worked during the 1990′s.
Krancer will become chair of Blank Rome’s Energy, Petrochemical and Natural Resources Practice, where he will be, “enhancing the firm’s existing energy and public policy talent and advising US and global energy clients,” according to a Blank Rome press release.
Governor Corbett’s deputy chief of staff, Christopher Abruzzo, will serve as acting DEP secretary until a replacement is named.
Krancer has been a controversial figure, leading the DEP at a critical time through the expansion of gas drilling the Marcellus Shale. He has clashed the federal Environmental Protection Agency, and been criticized by environmentalists for his pro-industry stance. Recently, he’s been reluctant to embrace the scientific consensus surrounding climate change.
The Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter Director, Jeff Schmidt says he hopes Krancer’s departure will clear the way for a more environmentally-friendly DEP secretary.
“In particular, we are concerned about the failure of DEP to share full information about the results of tests on water supplies for people whose wells are suspected of gas drilling contamination,” says Schmidt.
Schmidt is referring to testimony last September from a DEP employee, stating that the agency withholds information from water quality test results related to gas drilling.
Neither the DEP nor Blank Rome would comment on how long Krancer has been in discussions to take the new position with the law firm.
The agency also would not comment on whether Krancer has recused himself of any decision-making involving Blank Rome or its energy industry clients.
Joseph Minott, head of the Clean Air Council, which Krancer has also clashed with, says he’s not surprised to hear about the secretary’s new job.
“It makes logical sense that when he goes back to private practice it would representing that industry,” says Minott, “He did exactly what the governor wanted him to do. He was an extremely aggressive proponent of expanding the economic opportunities tied to natural gas extraction.”
Meanwhile, the gas industry praises Krancer’s work at the helm of the state’s regulatory agency.
“Secretary Krancer’s constructiveness and pragmatism have served our Commonwealth well,” said Marcellus Shale Coaltion CEO Kathryn Klaber in a statement, “Under his leadership, Pennsylvania has implemented world-class regulatory requirements for the industry, and responsible natural gas production has soared, resulting in more local jobs, cleaner air and strengthened American energy security. ”
Krancer worked as a partner for Blank Rome during the nineties. In 1999, he was appointed as a judge to the state’s Environmental Hearing Board (EHB) by Governor Tom Ridge. He stepped down in 2007 to run an unsuccessful campaign for the state Supreme Court, and then went to work for the energy firm Exelon as an attorney. Governor Rendell asked him to return to the EHB in 2009, and Governor Corbett appointed Krancer to head to the DEP in 2011.
As StateImpact recently reported, ethics filings show Blank Rome has given Governor Corbett and his wife, Susan over $15,000 in gifts since 2007.