Michael Krancer, the new Secretary of the PA Deptartment of Environmental Protection, is perilously close to becoming a part of the fracking pollution problem. In his new three month “Pilot” program, all pollution violations must go through his office BEFORE they can be reported and become part of official public record.
In the new PA DEP “Pilot” program, all pollution violations must go through Krancer’s office before they can be officially reported. This policy seems to circumvent the Freedom of Information Act, or at least the spirit of it, as the DEP will no longer furnish access to individual citizens to critical, timely information and reporting about pollution in their communities, even though their tax dollars pay for it.
Groups such as PennFuture and Clean Water Action decried environmental regulation taking a back seat to political influence.
“It will end up being a death by a thousand cuts,” says Tracy Carluccio, Deputy Director of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network.
Even former DEP Secretary, John Hanger, called this unprecedented grant of authority “unwise.” On his blog, he writes, “Pressures attacking the professional independence of inspectors have come from many directions, including those who oppose the industry. Resisting all these pressures must begin with ensuring that the inspectors in the field will report the truth, the facts, no matter whom it pleases or displeases. A good regulator is not a friend or foe to anybody involved in the process.”
In recent years, the PA DEP has seen its funding cut and its staff reduced, even though the statewide pollution violation caseload continues to expand along with the gas boom in the Marcellus Shale. Is Krancer curtailing the ability of the 3,000 DEP staff regulators to effectively regulate? Or will his office be a crucible of information, working to develop some much-needed consistency in the way state regulations are enforced? With this new policy, with all the vital bits veiled in secrecy, we may never know.
It seems like a basic right, in a Republic and a Commonwealth, to have access to all the pertinent information our government gathers about pollution in our state. Information needs to be democratic, especially when it comes to Water and Air Security. Of course these instances need to be reported, investigated and resolved. There is no other way to safeguard the public health. And because this kind of industrial waste is mildly radioactive, citizens have a right to this data hoard in particular. We shouldn’t have to sue for it!
If the idea is to develop best regulatory practice, and to eliminate potential corruption and promote fair enforcement, then having this information readily available (online) should make no difference to the state. Many environmentalists are left to wonder what it will take for state leaders to recognize the obvious link between public health and pollution in our environment, and act on the available information rather than sequester it?
By appeasing the Governor’s entirely pro-business agenda, I think Mr. Krancer may be missing this point. Clearly, however, he’s trying to get a handle on the situation. We should probably give the guy a chance, and have a little faith that he’s actively seeking solutions, even if he is a Republican. It seems unlikely, however, that any one state environmental agency could remain stalwart in the face of ridiculously fierce political and economic pressure. Nothing in his vast experience as a judge and an environmental lawyer could possibly have prepared Krancer, or anyone, for the wildly impacting decisions he will need to make next.
Michael Krancer, Background
Judge Krancer was a partner in the litigation department of Blank Rome in Philadelphia from 1992 to 1999 where he handled complex environmental and commercial cases. Before he was a partner at Blank Rome, he was a litigation partner in the Philadelphia law firm of Dilworth Paxson. Krancer also has been an attorney at Exelon Corp. He was appointed to the Environmental Hearing Board by Governor Ridge in September 1999 and became a Judge of the Board in November, 1999 upon Senate confirmation. Governor Edward G. Rendell appointed Judge Krancer as Chairman in February, 2003.
Upon his appointment to to the top Environmental Post in PA by then Governor-elect Tom Corbett in January, 2011, Krancer enjoyed the endorsement of both sides of this hot button issue.
Learn more about The PA Department of Environmental Protection at depweb.state.pa.us