After a little over two years, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael L. Krancer is stepping down and returning to Blank Rome as a partner in its Philadelphia office, where he will chair the firm’s energy, petrochemical and natural resources practice.
The move is scheduled to become effective April 15.
According to a DEP spokesperson, Krancer’s deputy chief of staff, E. Christopher Abruzzo, will take over as acting secretary.
Krancer told The Legal on Friday that his main motivation for stepping down as DEP secretary was to spend more time with his family in Philadelphia, after living alone in Harrisburg for the past two-plus years.
With two daughters in high school, one of whom is now starting to look at colleges, Krancer said it was time for him to go home.
Blank Rome represents another sort of homecoming for Krancer.
He was previously a partner at the firm from 1992 to 1999, before leaving to become a judge — and eventually chief judge — of the state Environmental Hearing Board.
Krancer said Friday that Blank Rome’s strategic vision is in line with his own and involves taking an "integrated approach" to serving energy industry clients.
As head of the firm’s new energy, petrochemical and natural resources practice, Krancer said his job will be to marshal the resources of a wide range of practices within the firm, from government relations to corporate, and focus them toward clients in the energy and natural resources sectors.
Krancer said clients don’t think of law firms in terms of separate practices. Instead, he said, they simply want a firm that can meet all of their needs.
Blank Rome’s co-chairman and managing partner, Alan J. Hoffman, agreed that the firm is taking a full-service approach to the energy and natural gas industry.
And while it may seem like a Philadelphia-based firm would face geographic challenges in attempting to serve an industry that is typically thought of as being most active in the western and northern portions of the state, Krancer said this is simply not so.
In fact, Krancer said the Philadelphia region is poised to play a "pivotal" role in energy and natural resources development in both the Appalachian Basin and nationwide.
Despite not being situated atop a shale formation, Philadelphia has a number of other assets including ports, a large workforce, infrastructure and a significant university base.
Philadelphia also has more venture capital than anywhere else in the state and is only an hour plane ride away from Pittsburgh, Krancer said.
Add to that the fact that Blank Rome also has a Houston office and Krancer said Blank Rome has "an excellent footprint geographically" for serving the energy, petrochemical and natural resources sectors.
And Hoffman said Krancer is the right person to lead the firm’s initiative.
"As you can tell by Michael’s background and enthusiasm and what Michael has accomplished, he is a superb practitioner and I think any law firm would be excited to have Michael join and become head of this new industry group we’re forming," Hoffman said.
Krancer was an EHB judge until 2007, before leaving to run for the state Supreme Court and to serve as associate general counsel of Exelon Corp.
Governor Tom Corbett selected Krancer to lead the DEP in January 2011.
During his time with the agency, Krancer was heavily involved in policy decisions related to the regulation of drilling in the Marcellus and Utica shale plays, which on more than one occasion has seen him butt heads with the federal Environmental Protection Agency, particularly with regard to oversight of the environmental impact of natural gas drilling.
But Krancer said Friday that he never viewed his relationship with the EPA as contentious.
Instead, he said, he viewed his role as DEP secretary as that of a "communicator."
"What I do is I have a dialogue with folks and some folks on the other end of that dialogue may consider it butting heads but I don’t," Krancer said. "Part of my job and part of my function was to stand up and tell the truth and to stand up and say what’s right."