HARRISBURG - On a promise to guard the environment while making way for industry, Michael Krancer this morning received a Senate committee's endorsement to be confirmed as secretary the Department of Environmental Protection.
The Environmental Resources and Energy Committee unanimously approved Krancer's nomination this morning. In a separate hearing with few questions and no debate, the Senate Judiciary Committee quickly endorsed the nomination of Frank Noonan as state police commissioner.
Both nominations now must be approved by the full Senate.
Krancer, 53, of Bryn Mawr, said he would be open-minded but also decisive and consistent.
"There are going to be decisions that not everybody all the time is going to agree with, but we do have to make decisions. We certainly owe that to the people of Pennsylvania," Krancer testified.
Last year, the Rendell administration failed to persuade the Legislature to agree on how to regulate and tax the fast growing natural gas industry in the Marcellus Shale region.
Gov. Corbett, who nominated Krancer, opposes taxing the industry. He has said he wants to attract drillers to the area because they will create jobs and improve the economy.
"I don't see protecting public safety and the Pennsylvania environment as foreign to economic development," Krancer said.
Sen. John Yudichak, the ranking Democrat on the committee, noted that Krancer will have to strike an unusual balance.
"There's probably no other time in our history that our DEP secretary also is going to drive economic development," said Yudichak of Luzerne County.
Gas regulation is at the forefront of the Corbett administration's focus this term - so much so that the governor is stacking his cabinet with utility executives such as Krancer, who worked for two years for Exelon Corp.
Krancer also worked for 10 years as a judge on the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board. In that role, he said, he often relied on scientific data that was presented as evidence. He intends to do the same as DEP secretary.
"We have to be directed by science. We cannot be influenced by rhetoric," he said. "I don't want to say tune out the rhetoric, because you have to hear it ... but at the end of the day, the sound science is what we want to direct policy and decision-making."
Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) challenged whether Krancer would put greater weight on scientists hired by gas drillers than those working for universities and environmental groups.
He also questioned whether the administration's mission to attract gas drillers would conflict with the DEP's mandate to protect air, land and water.
"The role of the DEP, to me, is not the guy whose primary initiative is to fight for economic development or the economic success of a particular agency," he said. "The primary mission [should be] to wake up every day and say 'How can I protect the environment?'"
Leach left just before the hearing ended and did not vote on the nomination.