Governor-elect Tom Wolf selected for his chief of staff and secretary of planning and policy, two former DEP secretaries—two individuals who care deeply about the air we breathe, the water we drink and the land that we sleep, work and play on. Now, we learn that he will appoint John Quigley and Cindy Dunn as secretary of environmental protection and secretary of conservation and natural resources, respectively. Extraordinarily excellent choices.
John Quigley in his tenure as secretary of conservation and natural resources at the tail end of the Rendell Administration was candid and outspoken in addressing the threats that natural gas operations present to our publicly owned state forests; during his past four years in the private sector, he has both carefully analyzed the impacts of natural gas development and dedicated substantial energy to identifying pathways to protect the integrity of the land, water and air that we share. Cindy Dunn, in her past capacities with PennFuture, the state and the Audubon Society, has consistently been a thoughtful and consistent advocate for the protection of our common resources and the public health.
With these personnel decisions, the governor-elect is demonstrating, out of the gate, an outstanding commitment to the protection of our Commonwealth.
When a family loses their drinking water because of mining or gas development, they have reason to be upset and angry. When a community’s air is degraded by industrial emissions, it has a right to demand protection under the law. It’s understandable that those most negatively impacted would ask the Governor, the General Assembly and the courts for justice. It’s right that they ask the public to support them in their time of need.
It is understandably maddening to have such need and understandable to assertively seek redress. However, no matter where one stands regarding natural gas development and acceptable levels of community impacts, consider this: Governor-elect Tom Wolf is making good appointments. Even if you disagree with his positions on natural gas, take the time to acknowledge positive steps. Celebrate that he has chosen people with a demonstrated commitment to the protection of public health and natural resources. Show that, although you will make heavy demands of him in the coming months, you aren’t unreasonable—that you will acknowledge good steps when they are taken.
And keep in mind the words of Otto von Bismarck, the renowned statesman and First Chancellor of Germany: “Politics is the art of the possible.” Whether a profound observation or a trite remark, the words hold true 148 year later. The governor-elect and his appointees have to work in the world of politics. They have to work in a Pennsylvania where the vast majority of the public supports natural gas development. They have to work with huge Republican majorities in the Pennsylvania House and Senate that stalwartly support the natural gas industry. They have to work within the boundaries of the law as policed by the courts, a body of law that is supportive of gas development.
This is the reality for any appointee—no matter their experience and commitment. Fortunately, the governor-elect has started with individuals with substantial experience and commitment.