Pa. Senate committee approves new environmental chief

    A Pennsylvania Senate committee gave unanimous approval to Gov. Tom Corbett’s nominee to run the Department of Environmental Protection.
    The department in charge of enforcing environmental laws is expected to face even more cuts to its depleted budget.

    Michael Krancer easily passed muster with the senators who focused their questions on the state’s rapidly growing natural gas drilling industry. Recent newspaper articles revealed data that shows radioactive waste water produced by the drilling process is getting into Pennsylvania’s waterways untreated.

    Republican Sen. Mary Jo White asked about a New York Times article that questioned the department’s ability to track that waste water and oversee its treatment. Krancer said he’s considering testing the water for radioactivity.

    “As one of the commentators in the article said, we think it’s safe. There are calls from various quarters to do some testing,” Krancer said.

    “Is that likely to happen?” said White.

    “It is one of the things, like everything else, we are considering, I am considering,” he said.

    Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Krancer did not commit to any course of action, but said he’s looking into the article’s allegations.

    Former DEP Secretary John Hanger said his staff had assured him the levels of radiation in the drilling waste water would not harm the environment or public health. But he has now called for testing.

    Several senators questioned Krancer on his ability to uphold environmental laws with a greatly depleted department that will likely face additional budget cuts.

    Krancer said he wants to improve efficiency. He also said the growing number of natural gas permits will generate revenue, which will then be used to hire more inspectors.

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