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Pa. environmental chief locks horns with activists

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August 05, 2012|By Andrew Maykuth, Inquirer Staff Writer in Philly.com

Michael Krancer, Gov. Corbett's chief environmental regulator, seems to delight in doing battle with critics of the state's oversight of the Marcellus Shale gas boom.

In May, Krancer said that Delaware "smells like the tail of a dog" because of its opposition to drilling regulations proposed for the Delaware River Basin. In a congressional hearing, he challenged a Cornell University scientist to a duel over hydraulic fracturing (just kidding, Krancer said).

Then there were Krancer's snarky skirmishes with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over regulation of drilling, which is traditionally a function of state agencies like Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection, the agency Krancer heads.

"We realize and recognize that EPA is very new to all of this and the EPA's understanding of the facts and science behind this activity is rudimentary," Krancer wrote to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson this year.

In an interview last week, Krancer said he was not out to pick fights with opponents, only to engage in mutual enlightenment.

"I'm not battling with people," said Krancer, a former corporate lawyer and environmental law judge who lives in Bryn Mawr. "I'm dialoguing with people."

Krancer's feistiness has won some praise from industry supporters, who say anti-drilling activists have distorted the risks of hydraulic fracturing, the controversial shale-gas extraction technique. But the secretary's tactics have also galvanized environmentalists, said Maya von Rossum, the head of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network. She said Krancer's "name-calling and bullying" had worn thin.

David Masur, director of PennEnvironment, said Krancer's approach is polarizing. He said DEP continues to call out PennEnvironment for publishing a photo last year of a flooded Marcellus drilling rig that turns out to have been shot in Pakistan.

"I don't think if I called the secretary a horse's ass he would say, 'Great, we're starting a dialogue,' " said Masur. "He would be irate."

Krancer's latest nemesis in the shale-gas culture war is the Natural Resources Defense Council, which he has been jousting with since the environmental group released a report in May that criticized Pennsylvania's management of drilling wastewater.

The resource council's report, which received little media attention, apparently touched a nerve with Krancer, who believes that the Republican administration has not gotten enough credit for reining in the drilling industry on wastewater.

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