Corbett Forces Out DCNR Secretary Richard Allan [UPDATED]
Governor Tom Corbett says his secretary of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) has resigned at his request, but the reasons for the change were not immediately disclosed.
Allan has led the agency since shortly after the first-term Republican governor took office in early 2011.
DCNR has come under increasing public scrutiny over plans to expand natural gas drilling in the Loyalsock State Forest. Allan was confronted by more than 400 opponents of the proposal at a contentious public meeting in Williamsport last week.
The plans involve 26 well pads, and four compressor stations over a 25,000 acre swath of state forest, known as the Clarence Moore lands.
Although the Commonwealth controls the surface rights on about 18,000 acres, Anadarko Petroleum, along with Southwestern Energy Corporation, can exercise surface control on about 7,000 acres in the Loyalsock. Some of that land is considered the most sensitive.
Some opponents wanted DCNR to use their control over the 18,000 acres as leverage to keep Anadarko off the most sensitive parts of the forest.
On Monday, environmental groups sent a letter to Gov. Corbett asking for DCNR to disclose details of Anadarko’s drilling plans. PennFuture’s attorney Mark Szybist says he welcomes Allan’s departure.
“I’m hopeful that the change in leadership at the DCNR signals a change in policy,” wrote Szybist in an email, “And that the Governor will direct the DCNR to hold a real public input process on the Clarence Moore lands, as we’ve requested.”
Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley told WITF’s Mary Wilson the resignation is unrelated to the Loyalsock controversy.
“It’s a personnel matter so I can’t discuss it,” he said. “It has nothing to do with any differences of public policy.”
Ellen Ferretti, Deputy Secretary for Parks and Forestry, will serve as Acting Secretary.
[UPDATE] Citing anonymous sources, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports Allan was fired for sending a racially charged email to his wife:
The e-mail was sent over a state computer and was seen by an assistant to his wife, Patricia, who had worked at the Department of Environmental Protection but now works at the Department of State.
The full context of the e-mail, in which Allan made a wordplay on colored, was not available.