Pennsylvania DEP Secretary Krancer exits through revolving door

Pennsylvania Secretary of Environmental Protection Michael Krancer announced last week that he was leaving the agency to lead the energy, petrochemical, and natural resources practice at Philadelphia-based law firm Blank Rome LLP, where he was a partner from 1992 to 1999.

Krancer’s administration of the Department of Environmental Protection during the fracking boom was mired with controversy, characterized as overly friendly to the natural gas industry and hostile to regulation and enforcement. His return to Blank Rome, which lobbies for natural gas clients and was a member of the Marcellus Shale Coalition until 2013, makes him the fifth DEP secretary since the agency was created to take a job connected to the oil and gas industry.

Krancer’s photo from his lobbyist registration when he was an attorney at Exelon

Blank Rome, where Krancer will chair the energy, petrochemical, and natural resources practice, has close ties to the oil and gas industry. The firm describes itself as “uniquely positioned to counsel and represent shale oil and gas exploration, production, and mid-stream companies regarding all of their business needs,” and has represented a number of natural gas players at the federal level, including the Gas Technology Institute, GeoSpatial Holdings, and Shell. Blank Rome also lobbies for the Gas Technology Institute and the Gas Processors Association in Pennsylvania through its subsidiary, Blank Rome Government Relations.

In Pennsylvania, Blank Rome has a number of revolving door ties to Pennsylvania government. Mark Holman, one time chief of staff to former governor Tom Ridge, worked for Blank Rome Government Relations for eight years after his government job before joining Ridge’s lobbying firm Ridge Policy Group as a lobbyist for the Marcellus Shale Coalition. Another Ridge staffer, Glen Thomas, joined Blank Rome as a partner after four years chairing the state’s Public Utility Commission. Thomas now runs an energy consultancy called GT Consulting.

Krancer actually came to his public position from the energy industry. Before his DEP appointment, he was a judge on the state’s Environmental Hearing Board, which hears appeals from DEP actions, and prior to that he was an attorney for Exelon, an electric company that relies on natural gas. Before his appointment, Krancer was a member of the energy transition team assembled by Tom Corbett, then governor-elect.

At the DEP, Krancer was a controversial figure, asserting: “At the end of the day, my job is to get gas done.” To this end, Krancer instituted a series of changes in the DEP, including a later-rescinded policy requiring all notices of violation to be approved by the department’s executive management in Harrisburg. Another policy required water contamination notifications to be cleared by top DEP brass before they could be sent to property owners. The DEP’s water testing procedures also come under fire in late 2012 when it came to light that the DEP withheld some findings from its water tests from some property owners, instigating an review by the state’s auditor general.

The fact that Krancer is going back to representing the drilling industry at Blank Rome raises the question of whether his close relationship with that industry is what drove these policies during his tenure at the DEP.

Krancer and other Pennsylvania officials’ ties to the natural gas industry are further detailed in the Public Accountability Initiative report “Fracking and the Revolving Door in Pennsylvania,” available by clicking here.

The data in the report can be found on LittleSis by viewing the profiles for individuals on the site’s “Pennsylvania Fracking Revolving Door” list.