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Read the Hearing Notes from DEP Secretary Nominee Hearing

Nomination Hearing for Michael Krancer for Secretary of DEP by the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee
Committee Chair Mary Jo White opened the hearing and recognized the new Minority Chairman John Yudichak for comments.  Chairman Yudichak commented on the opportunity and challenges that will be consistently placed on Mr. Krancer’s desk.  He cited his responsibility to the Commonwealth’s air, water, streams and forests.
Acting Secretary Krancer began by saying that it is his job to apply the law and to listen to all sides of an issue, consider all the facts and keep an open mind. He said he has been reminded by Governor Corbett that the primary purpose of government is public safety and that he intends to ensure that as Secretary.  He also noted that policy must involve government and stakeholders.  He stressed that he intends to act in a manner that is based on sound science, protecting the public and the environment and is fair to everyone.  He also noted that economic development and environmental protection are interdependent. For his complete statement, click here.
Senator Mary Jo White cited a New York Times article that appeared over the weekend that takes DEP to task for not properly regulating the natural gas industry and asked Acting Secretary Krancer to address the assertions in the article.  He said that he disagrees very strongly with many of the assertions of the article.  He said that however; his take is there are two things to remember one is that natural gas has a great potential to be a clean, efficient energy source and also that we have to do it right in protecting the environment.  He said the article is pieces of information that everybody needs to consider and evaluate.  He did take issue with the statistics printed about personnel.  The article said the DEP has 31 inspectors and the actual number is 78.  It also said there were 125,000 wells and the universe of Marcellus wells is 2,615.  They have good personnel and all of their inspections, contrary to the article, are unannounced. Last year the number of inspections increased 100% and totaled 5,000.  On recycling we have very good numbers on the amount of recycling.  It is at least 70% and probably higher.  Some operators recycle 100%.  The trend is significantly upward overall.
Senator White said the article focused on NORM (Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material) and asked if there are there federal drinking water standards for radioactivity.  Nominee Krancer said there are and that the TDS standards put in place last year at the state level address the issue.  He said “we think it is safe and testing is under consideration.”
Senator White then asked about the repeal of a policy regarding state forest land.  The repeal said the policy was redundant and she asked how it was so. Krancer said the policy purported to implement policy the DEP is already responsible for.  The policy singled out an industry that is covered more broadly by the oil & gas act, Section 205(c).  He noted that the statute takes precedence over policy.  She asked if the repeal has any effect on the moratorium and he said it did not.
Senator Yudichak asked about the disposal of frac water and the NY Times article.  He said he has great concern about the disposal.  He said they were told that sewage treatment plants are not capable of disposal and if the did they would have to amend their NPDES permit.  He asked if there are any authorized to accept the Marcellus water and if the DEP would support legislation or regulation on the tracking?  Krancer said he would need to get back to the Senator in regard to facilities in his district and cited that some wastewater plants accept related material not all of which is wastewater.  He said a manifest of wastewater it is being looked at and there has been no decision at the moment on whether they will support that.  The Senator asked how the funding of the Department and other programs can be addressed.  Krancer responded that DEP has gone from 3200 to 2615 people over the past few years.  He said that oil and gas activity has resulted in increases in permit fees that are in place and they will be increased if necessary and inspectors will be added.  He noted that if the permit process can be improved that will result in a budget increase.
Senator Yudichak asked for his thoughts on the Commonwealth’s strategic energy policy and how DEP is going to drive strategic investment with the private sector.  Krancer responded that there will be a difference in the way we do business today from how it was done before in that DEP is going to be co-equal partners with sister agencies.  He added that the Governor has appointed an Energy Executive who will be ensuring coordination between the different agencies.  He cited a report that there will be more spent on infrastructure in the next 10 years than has been spent in history on the energy grid. The Senator’s last question was how we get to independent data so that science influences the policy and how do universities participate in that role?  Krancer said we do have to be directed by the sound science vs. rhetoric and as a judge for 10 years it was his job to focus on the sound science.  Universities create bonding with those assets that can add to the science.
Senator Gene Yaw agreed that education is the key in the area of Marcellus Shale.  He commented that regarding frac water and NY Times there are two treatment plants in his district that are treating the frac water.  He said the NY Times article is filled with half truths.  It is partially true that frac water is being discharged but it what isn’t being told is that it has been treated before discharge.  He then extended an invitation to visit a site and a frac water treatment plant to see it in operation.   Yaw went on to say he knows that Nominee Krancer is a litigator, lawyer and judge.  Yaw said he feels what is going on is fear and fiction and asked what the DEP’s obligation to get facts out is.  Krancer said his personal view is that it is part of their job to get the facts out but not their only job.
Senator Tim Solobay noted that in Southwestern PA the industry is doing a lot of good things and the impacts are being overshadowed by federal legislation and the EPA is trying to stymie the opportunity to provide alternative energy opportunities for the country.  He asked what can be done to stop that.  Krancer said it’s not trying to stop them as much as it is recognition of the Commonwealth’s point of view by our federal partners. He said the Federal Government is not at all times going to have a Commonwealth viewpoint or agenda our job is to make sure that the PA case is made based on sound science.  The Senator noted that it was assuring to hear that there is going to be a focus on consistent communication across regions and agencies.
Senator Erickson noted that the number of current inspectors are funded thru permit fees and asked if there will be funding be there for ongoing inspection.  Krancer said the article in the NY Times was correct that there are 31 inspectors but we have 78 people conducting inspections and as activity increases there will be more funding available thru permit applications and stated again there were 5000 inspections last year. Senator Erickson emphasized that “we stand ready to generate additional revenue to maintain safety.”  He also noted that in the previous administration they fought “tooth and nail” to not have regulations based on sound science that is replicable and is pleased to hear you say that your decisions will be based on sound science.
Senator Daylin Leach noted that sometimes the words sound science becomes a euphemism for other more agenda driven things and asked Krancer what he means by sound science and what level of consensus does there need to be before action is necessary? Acting Secretary Krancer responded that we are in the business all of us of making policy decisions and we will never have perfect information and people will disagree.  He noted that he has been a Judge for 10 years sorting thru the arguments determining their credibility.  One of the factors is it replicable and there are others.  Senator Leach talked about the budget and whether there has there been an opportunity to quantify the need.  He asked Krancer if the DEP can endure more cuts and when do the cuts go too deep. Krancer said it is a difficult question to answer conceptually.  He said the Governor gave us a new post of Executive Deputy for Administration, Jeff Logan, and we will have more info as time goes by.  Senator Leach said he sees the primary mission of the DEP Secretary is to protect the environment every day.  Krancer said the primary mission is to protect public safety but it is not foreign to economic development.
Senator Don White made an observation that there has been a period where the consistency of the DEP was questionable and said he is looking forward to more consistency.
Chair Mary Jo White asked for the specifics of the repeal of the air policy from the previous administration.  Krancer said there has been lots of misinformation and that the policy did not prohibit anything.  The source of the document was unclear and never subject to public comment externally or internally either.  The confusion about the document is proof that no one understood it.  Federal law requires that it be done on a very specific case by case basis.  The document changed no criteria.  It is being done that way today.
The nomination was unanimously approved by the Committee.
To view the hearing, click here.

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