Friday, March 22, 2013

Analysis: Ironic Statement By Former DEP Secretary Hanger On Krancer’s Leaving

John Hanger, former Secretary of DEP under Gov. Rendell and announced Democratic candidate for Governor, released a statement today on the resignation of DEP Secretary Mike Krancer overflowing with irony.
He said, in part, “DEP’s ability to carry out its mission of protecting public health and the environment has been severely compromised by budget cuts to an already spare budget. But Corbett’s ideological opposition to adequate government funding also prevented DEP from moving forward with increases to fees for reviewing permit applications.
“Corbett’s DEP has failed to adequately regulate gas drilling and taken combative stances when citizens present the agency with legitimate concerns and problems.  The agency has been hostile to renewable energy and has failed to take action to clean up pollution in the Susquehanna River.”
And finally, “Morale at DEP is at devastatingly low levels.”
During the tenure of Gov. Rendell and his two DEP Secretaries, DEP was given jobs that strayed significantly from its core mission of clean air, pure water and protecting the natural resources of the Commonwealth and focused almost entirely on promoting alternative energy.
For eight straight years Gov. Rendell's proposed budget included cuts for the departments of Environmental Protection and Conservation and Natural Resources.  A total of $1.3 billion was cut or diverted from environmental programs to balance the General Fund budget or given to programs that could not get funding on their own.
The FY 2009-10 budget cuts alone required DEP and DCNR to furlough or eliminate 333 full time positions.  DCNR had to eliminate or reduce hours for 1,131 seasonal workers, putting appropriations for DEP at 1994 levels and for DCNR at 1995-96 levels.  And Gov. Rendell bragged about those funding levels.
Complement levels at DEP were reduced from 3,211 in FY 2002-03 to 2,835 now (January 2011), even less if you take out the 105 positions DEP added for the Marcellus Shale drilling inspection and permit program.  2,591 of the present 2,835 are now filled positions, the others are vacant.
In addition, over 100 DEP Air, Waste and Water Quality field staff use all or part of their time to act as managers for federal stimulus projects, projects funded by the Energy Harvest and PA Energy Development Authority programs taking time away from permit reviews, inspections and compliance activities.
Complement levels at DCNR were 1,391 in FY 2002-03 to 1,389 positions of which 1,289 positions are filled.
During the last eight years of the Rendell Administration, DEP's General Fund budget has been cut by 40.9 percent ($245.6 million to $147 million), DCNR by 23.7 percent  ($108.8 million to $82.4 million) and the Department of Agriculture by 35.2 percent ($76.1 million to $62.8 million) from the FY 2010-11 to FY 2002-03 budget.
One result of these cuts was a backlog of 11,000 permits left on DEP’s desks when Gov. Rendell left office.
These are the deep holes the Corbett Administration found when they came into office two years ago.
In addition, the Corbett Administration did not dismantle or divert the renewable energy programs put in place by Gov. Rendell, unlike what the Rendell Administration did to dismantle and dilute the Growing Greener Program which was making real, lasting improvements in the environment across the Commonwealth.
Hijacking the Growing Greener Program to help fund parking garages in Scranton, among other non-environmental cleanup expenditures, set back the state’s efforts to address pollution in the Susquehanna River and every stream and unnamed tributary in the Commonwealth.
Morale of not only DEP staff, but the whole environmental community engaged in watershed restoration and real environmental cleanups were devastated by the actions of the Rendell Administration.
Some of the Growing Greener Program was, in fact, restored with the adoption of Act 13 and the imposition of Marcellus Shale well fees in 2012 by the General Assembly and Gov. Corbett.
The Corbett Administration also carried forward each and every permit fee increase proposed in the waning days of the Rendell Administration, except for some fees under the drinking water program.  There were some changes, yes, but by-and-large they were all finalized.
DEP is also reviewing the adequacy of the current Marcellus Shale drilling permit fee this year and will likely propose an increase there as well.
Let’s not forget, it was also the Rendell Administration that dismantled the citizen water monitoring program and the PA Senior Environment Corps which at its peak involved 11,000 volunteers across the state to check water quality.
The Rendell Administration also dismantled the PA Center for Environmental Education which coordinated and promoted environmental education efforts across the state.
It was also the Rendell Administration which threw away 18,000 requests within weeks of taking office from citizens trying to learn how they could recycle more, save energy, prevent pollution and cleanup their local watersheds.  
No administration’s environmental record is perfect, but the truly historic scale of the budget cuts, staff reductions and the dismantling of real environmental cleanup programs by the Rendell Administration is the worst rollback of real environmental programs the Commonwealth has ever seen.
Click Here for a review of the environmental record of the Rendell Administration.

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