Gov.-elect Wolf makes slew of selections for Cabinet-level positions
January 14, 2015 6:30 PM
Pennsylvania Gov.-elect Tom Wolf will take office in less than a week.
By Don Hopey / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Gov.-elect Tom Wolf continued to reward experience today by selecting veterans of Pennsylvania state government to head up state agencies that oversee environmental protection, parks and forests, agriculture, budget and administration.
Mr. Wolf today announced the nomination of John Quigley to be secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection. Mr. Quigley was conservation and natural resources secretary under Gov. Ed Rendell.
Mr. Wolf has also selected Cindy Dunn to serve as secretary of conservation and natural resources; Russell Redding to head the Department of Agriculture; Randy Albright, who has served as the Democrats’ executive director of the Pennsylvania Senate Appropriations Committee since 2009, to be his secretary of the Office of the Budget; and Sharon Minnich, the state government’s former assistant chief information officer, to oversee the Office of Administration.
Mr. Wolf tabbed Robin Wiessmann, who previously served as founder and president of the Artemis Capital Group and vice president at Goldman Sachs, to be the secretary of the Department of Banking and Securities and Montgomery County Commissioner Leslie Richards to serve as secretary of the Department of Transportation. Mr. Wolf announced that Barry Schoch, the current transportation secretary, will move into the governor’s office to serve as a senior adviser on transportation and infrastructure.
Mr. Redding has worked in the Department of Agriculture for 16 years, including a stint as secretary from 2009-11. Ms. Dunn previously served as the deputy secretary of conservation and technical service for the DCNR.
Mr. Wolf expects to have a full Cabinet announced by the time he’s sworn in Jan. 20, spokesman Jeffrey Sheridan said.
The DEP and DCNR nominations were cheered by several environmental and conservation groups, but the drilling industry was more reserved.
“From his time as mayor (of Hazelton, Pa., for eight years) through his work at DCNR, John Quigley knows how government works and has demonstrated the ability to get things done,” Chesapeake Bay Foundation Pennsylvania Executive Director Harry Campbell said. “He is well versed on the challenges facing our natural resources and water quality in Pennsylvania’s rivers and streams.”
R. John Dawes, president and executive director of the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds, a statewide environmental organization focused on watershed reclamation, said the DEP and DCNR nominations are “a hopeful turn for the environmental community.”
He said Ms. Dunn will likely continue the work of the Coldwater Heritage Fisheries Program, which the foundation and DCNR jointly fund and operate. The program’s identification, assessment and designation of pristine cold water streams as “High Quality” and “Exceptional Value” provides those streams much needed protections from oil and gas development, Mr. Dawes said.
“It’s the best vehicle we have in terms of limiting the siting of gas wells and its industrial facilities in ecologically important watersheds,” Mr. Dawes said. “My expectation is that Dunn and Quigley, if confirmed, would be firm in terms of carrying out the program and continuing those designations.”
John Walliser, vice president for legal and governmental affairs for the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, a statewide environmental organization, said Mr. Quigley brings an important perspective on climate change, its opportunities as well as challenges, to the DEP’s leadership post.
“And he has shown - whether through his past work on carbon sequestration when at DCNR, or his ongoing advocacy to reduce the greenhouse gas footprint of natural gas - that he’s willing to consider all angles without losing sight of the goal or current realities of our diverse energy portfolio,” Mr. Walliser said.
“This can’t be understated: the most difficult, and to a degree uncharted, territory for Governor Wolf’s DEP will be climate change; and how Pennsylvania rises up to the considerable challenge of GHG (greenhouse gas) reductions. I honestly think John has the resolve to make that happen.”
The Marcellus Shale Coalition noted it has differences with Mr. Quigley and Ms. Dunn, but emphasized cooperation.
“While policy differences certainly exist, our industry is fully committed to working with the new administration toward the shared goals of continuing to safely produce job-creating natural gas as well as further enhancing our environment through the expanded use of this abundant, clean-burning and reliable resource.” said Dave Spigelmyer, MSC president.
Most Cabinet-level selections require state Senate approval.
Drew Crompton, an aide to state Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, said it’s early in the nomination process but Mr. Quigley’s nomination has already raised some questions.
“The governor can nominate who he wants, but that said, there are people raising concerns with Quigley. He’s had difficult dealings with some members of the Senate that were philosophical and personality-based,” Mr. Crompton said. “He has a strong ideological bent. He doesn’t shy away. But the Senate has a responsibility to do an appropriate review.”
Don Hopey: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1983. Twitter: @donhopey
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