PADEP In Holding Pattern

Since Election Day, I've been around to several PADEP regional offices and I've had numerous conversations with people in PADEP's Central Office in Harrisburg. It seems to me that most everyone is in that wait and see mode. Governor-Elect Corbett's first task as it relates to PADEP is to select a new Secretary. I know that names are being tossed around. I don't want to add to the rumor mill. That's not the purpose of this posting. I thought I'd take a quick shot at explaining what can be expected to happen once the new Secretary is selected. The Secretary-designee will have to assemble his/her leadership team. That includes the Deputy Secretaries, Chief Counsel, Press Secretary, Legislative and Government Liaisons and other executives on the 16th Floor. When we came into office under Governor Ridge and Secretary Seif, most of the Deputies and Chief Counsel were already in place on Day One and ready to hit the ground running. The campaign's position papers and the transition report were used as a blueprint for action, and I would think you could expect the same with the upcoming Corbett Administration. Anyone who wants to get a sense of the priorities for the next PADEP Secretary should carefully read the Corbett campaign's position papers. It's not as if that person will be putting together a policy agenda from scratch. There is a lot of meat already there for the viewing. The new Secretary also has to decide who should run the 6 PADEP regional offices. Existing regional directors can be retained or they can be replaced, at the discretion of the Secretary. I believe the same goes for the regional chief counsel, but don't hold me to that. Regardless, the new Secretary has to quickly form judgments as to the capabilities of all those who will report to him/her and decide on his/her larger leadership team. Beyond those few positions (and the lawyers in the Chief Counsel's Office who arguably fall under the Office of the Governor's Counsel), the new Secretary pretty much has to accept the Department personnel as it exists now. With that said, there is a lot of room for reorganizing the Department, which would include consolidating different programs and functions. I would expect that certain deputates that exist now won't exist in the future, some will be renamed/targeted to address the incoming administration's priorities, and new ones may be created. The Ridge/Seif team did that and so did Secretary McGinty. Personally, I'd recommend moving the Act 2 program back under the Air, Waste and Radiation Protection Deputy, which is where it was when it was created. I also question the continuing need for and utility of the Deputy Secretary for Field Operations. Many of those administrative functions can be performed by the Deputy Secretary for Administration, and the enforcement coordination role can be handled by others. You may think a lot of this is inside baseball and does not effect you. It is true that internal reorganization won't impact each and every regulated entity, but it is important enough that people need to closely monitor whatever changes are made at PADEP and be aware of them so they are not caught off guard, if for no other reason than to know which office and who to call in a specific situation. A changing administration can be a time of great anxiety for many. Personally, I remember the beginning of the Ridge Administration as a very challenging and professionally rewarding time. While I didn't necessarily enjoy sleeping on my air mattress in Jim Seif's in-law's vacant condo or the commute between Harrisburg and Bucks County, it was probably the most exciting time of my professional career. There was a real sense of teamwork with everyone pitching in to try to quickly implement the Governor's agenda and show as many accomplishments as possible in the first 100 days. There was legislation moving to split the Department of Environmental Resources into PADEP and DCNR and to create the Act 2 program. I was trying to get a handle on all the Boards and Commissions so I could explain to the Secretary which ones, if any, were required by statute and which could be eliminated (not many), and who should be recommended to fill any vacancies. There were enforcement actions in midstream, some of which required midstream course correction. There were speaking engagements put on the schedule for organizations wantings someone to come speak about the agenda and direction for the new PADEP team. It all happens so quickly, and that is the exciting part about it. Once you get to the 16th floor of the Rachel Carson building, you rarely have a day when your plate isn't full. Changes will be coming at PADEP. On that, we can all be certain. Who will lead that change is another question and one that can only be answered by Governor-elect Corbett.

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