Wolf taps former DEP secretary for policy chief
Pennsylvania’s Democratic Governor-elect Tom Wolf has tapped former state environmental protection secretary John Hanger to be his Secretary of Planning and Policy.
In this high-ranking post, Hanger says he will help the governor develop and implement his policy agenda, which includes plans for a severance tax on Marcellus Shale drilling and reinstating a moratorium on new oil and gas leasing in state parks and forests.
“I bring 30 years of experience working in policy, energy, environment and utilities and other matters,” he said.
Hanger served under Governor Ed Rendell as Department of Environmental Protection Secretary in 2009 and 2010. Before that, he was the president of environmental advocacy group PennFuture and sat on the Public Utility Commission in the 1990s. He ran for governor in a crowded field against Republican incumbent Tom Corbett, but dropped out of the race before the June primary.
Hanger will work alongside another former gubernatorial challenger and Rendell-era DEP secretary Katie McGinty, who was named Wolf’s chief of staff last month.
Following the inauguration on January 20, one of the administration’s first items of business will be making the case for a 5 percent tax on natural gas production to the state’s Republican-controlled legislature.
Hanger dismissed as “speculative” an Associated Press story from earlier this week, which asserted Wolf could be overestimating how much revenue the tax could generate. Wolf’s $1 billion estimate is based on a higher wholesale natural gas price than drillers are seeing today. Hanger suggested the tax could be structured in a way that relies less on the price and more on the volume of gas drillers are producing.
“No matter how it’s formulated, I’m confident the state is going to raise a great deal of money,” Hanger said. “It may be year-to-year a little more than a billion, less than a billion, but I’m confident it’s going to be a major source of new revenue the state needs.”
Also on Wolf’s agenda is reinstating a moratorium on new leasing in state parks and forests. Outgoing Governor Corbett issued an executive order in May that would expand oil and gas development on state lands in a manner he said would not create new surface disturbances. Corbett’s order is facing two simultaneous Commonwealth Court challenges.
“Governor-elect Wolf has been clear he will come forward with a new executive order to protect the state parks and forest from further drilling,” Hanger said.