Governor-elect Tom Wolf has announced his picks for the state’s two top environmental posts. Both nominees will be heavily involved in overseeing Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale industry and have extensive backgrounds in environmental causes and government.
Wolf nominated John Quigley to head the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP.) He previously served as Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary during the Rendell administration.
“I’m thrilled, I’m humbled, and excited,” Quigley tells StateImpact. ”There are obviously some challenges facing Pennsylvania.”
Cindy Dunn, who heads the statewide environmental advocacy group PennFuture, has been chosen to lead DCNR. She has spent 12 years at the agency, working under three administrations. She started out as director of community relations under former governor Tom Ridge and was appointed deputy secretary under Rendell. She stayed in the job several years into the Corbett administration and left in October 2013 to lead PennFuture.
DEP and DCNR have similar, but separate, missions when it comes to gas drilling. DEP is responsible for enforcing environmental laws and issuing permits. DCNR manages drilling on public lands.
Dunn says Wolf plans to restore a Rendell-era moratorium on further gas leasing in parks and forests. He also wants to shift away from the recent trend of DCNR relying on gas royalties for its operating expenses, but that may take time.
“The governor’s facing a really difficult budget year,” says Dunn. “I think it’s a long-term goal. It’s an agency that serves the citizens of Pennsylvania. It should be covered by the general fund.”
Quigley dismissed the idea that the Wolf administration will be unfriendly to the gas industry, but says it will be “very different” from the Corbett administration.
“One of the things Governor-elect Wolf talked to me about is transparency,” says Quigley. “We want to restore public confidence in the ability of the commonwealth to protect our citizens. We have to communicate better.”
Environmental groups praised the appointments.
“These Departments have tremendous power to protect our air, land and water; to promote clean energy; and to hold polluters accountable,” said Joanne Kilgour of the Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter in a statement. “John Quigley and Cindy Dunn will help restore integrity and professionalism to our state agencies tasked with conservation and environmental protection.”
Dave Spigelmyer, who heads the gas industry trade group the Marcellus Shale Coalition, also issued a statement congratulating the nominees.
“Our industry is fully committed to working with the new administration toward the shared goals of continuing to safely produce job-creating natural gas as well as further enhancing our environment through the expanded use of this abundant, clean-burning and reliable resource.”
Both nominees require confirmation from the state senate.