DEP Secretary Krancer Has Wealthy Dad: This Is Not News

An article by Laura Olson in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette today reports that a few state minority leaders are irked by the somewhat flamboyant timing of Ronald Krancer’s donation to the state GOP – it was on the eve of the confirmation of his son’s appointment to Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection. It’s curious why, all the sudden, this matters. Michael Krancer’s appointment by Gov. Tom Corbett was widely applauded on both sides of the aisle, and his later confirmation was smooth sailing. And it’s odd because while Corbett has made some questionable appointments, this isn’t one of them.

The first thing Krancer did is get drillers to stop dumping frack waste into rivers and streams, and while I personally think he puts too much faith in waste water recycling and corporate good intentions, I recognize that his agency has been very busy drafting a baseline of sensible new rules and revisions to the outdated PA Oil & Gas Code and beefing up inspections.

There are two facts, and one of them isn’t prescient: 1) Ronald Krancer is a wealthy man, 2) Michael Krancer is well qualified to head the PA DEP.

Krancer, the elder, is a long-standing supporter of Pennsylvania politics. He is also a generous donor to many Philadelphia area charities. His is Annenberg-money, and while he has contributed steadily over the years to both political parties, he leans towards Republican causes.

Michael Krancer has achieved a great deal professionally, and it’s this fact that matters. Yes, he worked at Exelon, inside the industry, but he’s also a widely respected environmental lawyer, and a Judge who served as Chief of the Environmental Hearing Board (EHB) under both Ridge and Rendell.* And at least he’s working to get things done. There is a massive, mind-blowing vacuum of leadership on gas drilling issues at the gubernatorial level, with everything riding on the Marcellus Advisory Commission’s upcoming July 22 report. Krancer is among the few striving to anticipate the Commission’s recommendations, and fill the common sense void. Honestly, I wouldn’t want that job.

The point is, his dad may be rich but let’s not hold that against him. He’s also a Riverbend Environmental Education Center Patron, a converted Catholic and a Civil War Re-Enactor, yet none of that has bearing on his record protecting Pennsylvania’s environment. Krancer has said repeatedly that he’s preaching enforcement, and we ought to be glad. The DEP is our primary line of environmental defense, ultimately. We’re riding the runaway train of a tax-free Gas Boom, and it may be the best we can hope for at present. I do wonder how Krancer feels about the $160 million in DEP budget cuts? Maybe Ron could form a PAC to make up the shortfall? Just a thought…

Our current DEP secretary is obviously aware of the complex issues facing Pennsylvania, even if he occasionally comes off as dismissive of environmental science. He has also said he’d like to see the legislative responsibility for shale gas drilling spread around a bit more, so maybe we should get to know some of the other players driving development in the shale. Like, who is up-and-comer Patrick Henderson, our freshly minted Energy Executive, and what does he do? Anyway, it’s safe to say, no DEP Secretary can afford to be a political patsy, not even for dear `ole dad.

History will hold the DEP accountable for prudent regulation and positive enforcement in Pennsylvania. In a way, we’re in the midst of another kind of civil war. All this murky, brewing contention seems reminiscent of an earlier era, when opposing ideals fractured the Commonwealth’s citizenry, and the Mason-Dixon line inadvertently straddled the Marcellus shale.

Pennsylvania is a Commonwealth, and our state government is modeled after the federal government, with a Governor, a House, a Senate and a Judiciary. Minor Court judges in Pennsylvania are generally elected, but State Court judges are appointed. Like the United States, our 67 counties have differing laws and courts. Pennsylvania has the second largest full-time state legislature in the nation.

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“Father of DEP secretary gave $25,000 to GOP on the eve of his confirmation by Pa. Senate

SOURCE: Article by Laura Olson, Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau, Thursday, July 07, 2011
HARRISBURG — The day before Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Krancer was unanimously confirmed by the state Senate, his father donated $25,000 to the State Republican Committee.
State Democratic Party operatives on Wednesday condemned that action after they discovered the donation on a campaign finance report. But the elder Mr. Krancer contends that the timing is nothing more than coincidence.
Neither the size of that check nor its recipient are unusual for Ronald Krancer, a major GOP donor in southeastern Pennsylvania. He contributed $150,000 to Gov. Tom Corbett’s gubernatorial campaign, as well as donating tens of thousands to GOP power-broker Bob Asher’s political action committee and at least $125,000 to the state Republican Party since 2008.
While Ronald Krancer’s checks mostly go to GOP candidates, he also made high-figure contributions to former Gov. Ed Rendell’s gubernatorial campaigns.
But the date of his April 25 donation to the state GOP was what raised the ire of Democrats, who questioned why it came as lawmakers in Harrisburg were considering Mr. Corbett’s appointee to head the DEP.
Michael Krancer, who previously served on the state Environmental Hearing Board and ran for Supreme Court in 2007, joined the administration as acting secretary in January. He spent much of his first few months changing how environmental violations and drilling wastewater would be managed and drawing intense scrutiny during that process.
Democrats have been particularly skeptical of those changes and of the new administration’s opposition to enacting a severance tax on natural gas extraction.
Mark Nicastre, a spokesman for the state Democratic Party, said that view has been fueled in part by what they see as connections between donors and appointees.
“Under Tom Corbett, there has been a long pattern of donors and their families receiving high-ranking jobs,” Mr. Nicastre said. “It’s part of a disturbing trend that undermines confidence in the independence and legitimacy of Tom Corbett’s administration.”
Reached for comment on Wednesday, the elder Mr. Krancer said there was “absolutely no connection whatsoever” between the timing of his donation and his son’s confirmation: “I’m just not involved in that.”
A spokeswoman for the State Republican Committee echoed that sentiment, saying “one thing has nothing to do with the other.”
“Ron Krancer has and continues to be an enthusiastic supporter of the Republican Party of Pennsylvania,” GOP party spokeswoman Valerie Caras said. Michael Krancer declined to comment.

Read Pittsburgh-Post Gazette Article here.

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