State Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Chris Abruzzo says when he took charge of the agency nearly a year ago, he wanted to change its perception.
“There was this sense–at least publicly–we were very tight with information and not necessarily transparent in what we were doing.”
Speaking today at Widener Law in Harrisburg, Abruzzo says he’s tried to get the public more involved in the agency’s decision-making process.
He pointed to the recent series of public hearings across the state on new oil and gas regulations, as well as updates to the department’s website –including a biweekly newsletter and YouTube channel.
“No offense, our website looked like the Encyclopedia Britannica,” he said. “It was not dynamic. It did not engage the public. We’ve tried very hard to overhaul that website.”
Abruzzo took over as acting DEP Secretary last April, after former Secretary Mike Krancer stepped down to take a job at a Philadelphia law firm. Abruzzo had previously served as Governor Corbett’s deputy chief of staff. His professional career has primarily been focused on criminal law, not environmental issues.
He says he encourages DEP staff to be problem-solvers, by streamlining the permitting process, promoting consistency among its six regional offices, and conducting thousands of inspections of oil and gas sites.
“We can talk a good talk, but we’re walking the walk now at the agency,” he said. “We’re demonstrating to folks we are a scientific agency. We’re not worried about people coming in and learning more about our people or our facilities. We invite it.”