Don Hopey talks to John Norbeck, the state parks director, about why Tom Corbett’s administration might be forcing him out:
Although Mr. Norbeck said he didn’t know of any one issue that caused the administration to sour on him, he cited several on which he differed with it.
He said Ellen Ferretti, appointed by the Corbett administration as DCNR deputy secretary for parks and forestry in June 2011, discussed starting commercial timbering operations in the state parks, but he told her proposing such a program would be “walking into a public buzz saw” and the revenue that could be generated wouldn’t be worth it.
Another involved a proposal by Amerikohl Mining Inc. to mine limestone under the 13,625-acre Laurel Ridge State Park in Somerset County. That proposal, which has not been publicly reported, was denied twice by the parks bureau, but Amerikohl has a meeting scheduled with DCNR officials in the coming weeks to ask again, Mr. Norbeck said.
He said state park rules clearly prohibit mining on parkland. John Stilley, Amerikohl’s chief executive officer, said the company informally approached DCNR about allowing mining of the Loyalhanna limestone seam at a depth of about 200 feet. Such an operation would be an extension of Amerikohl’s Jim Mountain Quarry, an all-surface operation that now is within 300 feet of the state park boundary.
“The limestone belongs to the state park but we made an informal request to see if we can generate some income for the park,’ said Mr. Stilley, who along with relatives contributed more than $32,000 to Mr. Corbett’s political campaigns but denied he is trying to exert any political influence.
Of course there’s nothing wrong with a Governor wanting to staff state departments with people who are sympathetic to his policy agenda. The next time a Democrat is Governor, we’ll definitely want to see conservatives like DEP head Michael Krancer, PennDOT head Barry Schoch, and Secretary of State Carol Aichele get replaced with movement progressives.
But on the substance, letting polluters and energy developers go buck wild on public lands that have specifically been designated for conservation is a horrible idea. People should respond by voting against representatives of the Governor’s party, to deny him the votes to do anything like this.
This is a perfect example of why party labels are more important than individual personalities. In 2010, the choice between Tom Corbett and Dan Onorato was most often discussed in terms of both mens’ personalities and experience, and to a lesser extent, their policy objectives.
But it would be more appropriate to talk about the political party that the Governor is bringing with him to the Executive Branch. A whole lot of what “the Governor” does is stuff that’s carried out at lower levels by his sundry political appointees. And those political appointees make all kinds of political decisions about things the Governor might not have strong, or any, views about. In the absence of strong direction from the Governor, we can assume that Republican Party or Democratic Party orthodoxy will rule the day on a whole host of issues that weren’t discussed during the campaign. The actual choice in any election is whether you want the Democratic Party or the Republican Party to govern.