State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

DEP chief steps down for job as energy industry lawyer

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Mar 22, 2013 2:33 PM
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Photo by Scott Detrow / StateImpact Pennsylvania

The state’s top environmental and energy industry regulator is leaving his post to work as a lawyer for energy sector clients.

Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Krancer will resign in mid-April to work as an attorney for Blank Rome, a law firm where he previously worked in the 1990s.

Krancer was no shrinking violet during his two years in office. His tenure has included dust-ups with the independent state agency overseeing Pennsylvania’s waterways and environmentalists who say he’s too cozy with the natural gas industry. He’s taken fire from Democratic state lawmakers for his reluctance to embrace the scientific consensus surrounding climate change.

Krancer also frequently took umbrage at the U-S Environmental Protection Agency when they encroached on what he saw as the role of state regulators. He told StateImpact Pennsylvania last year the relationship worsened after Gov. Corbett took office and appointed him to head the DEP.

“It’s amazing to me sometimes how stupid the EPA has discovered we became as of January 19, 2011,” said Krancer.

In mid-April, he’ll leave the agency to work for Blank Rome as an attorney representing energy sector clients. Krancer worked for the law firm in the 1990s.

Blank Rome gave more than $15,000 in gifts to Gov. Corbett and the first lady and was also a major political donor to Corbett. Krancer’s father has also reportedly donated generously to Corbett’s bid for governor.

Krancer won’t be able to lobby the DEP for a year after he leaves office.

One of the governor’s top aides, Chris Abruzzo is stepping in as acting DEP secretary. He said it’ll take a few months to nominate a permanent replacement.

Eric Shirk, a spokesman for the governor, called Abruzzo a natural choice, given his involvement with negotiating new natural gas drilling policies and setting up an oil and gas division within DEP.

“Anything the agency does, Chris has been aware of,” said Shirk.

Abruzzo himself said he believes Krancer’s decision to leave was out of a desire to spend more time with his family. He referred to DEP as “ground zero” of the Corbett administration’s efforts to implement new policies and said being chief of the agency has been a “grind” for Krancer.

“He helped transition DEP from where they were in 2010 to where they are now in terms of the way we’ve adapted to this booming natural gas industry,” said Abruzzo. “His leadership during that transition is going to be a big part of his legacy.”

Krancer did not return a request for comment.

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