John Hanger is a former head of the state Department of Environmental Protection who oversaw the early stages of the Marcellus Shale boom. More recently, he served as Governor Tom Wolf’s Secretary of Planning and Policy. He resigned from that position in February 2016.
Hanger was DEP Secretary in 2009 and 2010 under Governor Ed Rendell. Before that, he was the president of environmental advocacy group PennFuture and sat on the Public Utility Commission. Hanger also ran for governor in a crowded field of Democrats against Republican Tom Corbett, but dropped out of the race in March 2014.
Despite his environmental background, Hanger became a strong supporter of drilling – albeit drilling done in a safe and responsible manner. He ramped up DEP’s permitting fees, and used the proceeds to increase the department’s inspections staff. Hanger also tightened Pennsylvania’s well casing standards, and decreased the amount of flowback fluid drillers could dump into rivers and streams.
Still, Hanger’s support of drilling has pitted him against hard-line environmentalists who want to see a complete stop to drilling. He’s portrayed negatively in Gasland, and has clashed with the New York Times, over its coverage of hydraulic fracturing. Hanger was endorsed in his campaign for governor by residents of embattled Dimock, Pennsylvania including community activist Victoria Switzer from Gasland Part II. As a gubernatorial candidate, Hanger pushed for a severance tax on shale gas. He also wanted more oversight of drilling, including hiring an ombudsman at DEP to investigate complaints.