Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection Secretary Pat McDonnell will get his day in court, or rather, his day in a reconfirmation hearing–on May 8. We previously wrote about the delay of McDonnell’s reconfirmation hearing (see Philly Gang of Five Win Delay of PA DEP Secretary Reconfirmation). Although there is a small band of leftists from Philly opposed to McDonnell because of his approval of the Mariner East pipeline projects, the delay in his reconfirmation hearing was not because of that.
The delay was actually because Republicans had a few bones to pick with McDonnell. It appears those bones are now picked.
Here’s the details about the hearing:
The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee is schedule to meet on May 8 to consider the renomination of Patrick McDonnell as DEP Secretary.
McDonnell has led DEP since he was nominated as Acting Secretary on May 20, 2016 and was later confirmed by the Senate. Prior to his appointment in 2016, McDonnell served as Director of DEP’s Policy Office.
Prior to returning to DEP, Mr. McDonnell was executive policy manager for former Commissioner Pamela A. Witmer of the Public Utility Commission, focusing on electric, natural gas and water issues as well as cybersecurity and the impact of environmental regulation on energy markets.
Previously, McDonnell spent 13 years with DEP in a variety of roles. As deputy secretary for administration, he managed the budget, human resources, information technology and oversaw the facilities management functions of the agency. He also previously served as policy director and as an assistant to the special deputy secretary.
The meeting will be held in Room 8-EA of the East Wing Capitol Building starting at 9:00 a.m. (1)
One of the bones the oil and gas industry has with the DEP under McDonnell (and before McDonnell, to be fair), has been the sloooooow turnaround time for “simple” permits, like erosion and sedimentation permits, needed when constructing a well pad and roads to the pad. So we found it highly interesting that on the same day McDonnell will face Senators in one hearing, another hearing will also be held to air complaints about DEP permit reviews:
The House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee is scheduled to hold an informational meeting on May 8 to hear from the regulated community on their experiences with DEP’s permitting program.
The meeting announcement said invited speakers will discuss a variety of permits associated with projects across the state. A list of speakers was not yet available.
The meeting will be held in Room B-31 of the Main Capitol starting at 9:00. (2)
McDonnell is appearing before the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee (Sen. Gene Yaw, chairman). The DEP permit gripe session will happen before the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee (Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, chairman).
We’ve been told by a trusted source there is no connection between the two–McDonnell’s reconfirmation and a hearing to air complaints about slow DEP permits.
A trusted source gives us the proper context to understand the pressure on Senators to convene the reconfirmation hearing sooner rather than later:
With respect to the Senate confirmation, it’s important to understand the process. When the governor submits a nominee to the Senate, the Senate has a total of 25 legislative days (days they are physically in session) in which to vote on the nominee. If they fail to do so, the nominee is “deemed confirmed” automatically. That clock is ticking on McDonnell’s confirmation and will expire sometime in mid-May. The Committee is charged with one thing: holding a public hearing and reporting back to the full Senate. In other words, a nominee cannot simply be bottled up in Committee.
As for the House hearing on May 8 to complain about slow permits, we’ve been told someone from the oil and gas/shale industry will testify, although the hearing applies to much more than just our industry. Stay tuned.
So are the two hearings on the same day–McDonnell’s confirmation and DEP permit complaints–just a coincidence? Or is a message being sent? We report, you decide.
(1) PA Environment Digest Blog (May 1, 2019) – Senate Environmental Committee To Consider Renomination Of McDonnell For DEP Secretary May 8
(2) PA Environment Digest Blog (May 1, 2019) – House Environmental Committee Sets May 8 Info Meeting To Hear From Regulated Community On DEP Permit Review Experiences
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