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Environment & Energy

Wolf Still Searching For New Environmental Chief

Marie Cusick
StateImpact Pennsylvania


More than three months have passed since the controversial resignation of Pennsylvania’s environmental secretary, John Quigley, and Governor Tom Wolf is still looking for a permanent replacement.

The law requires the governor to nominate someone to fill the vacancy within 90 days. In order to comply, the administration submitted a placeholder name, Thomas Yablonski Jr., to the state Senate last week. Yablonski is a staffer in the governor’s office, and his name was used for 24 different appointments. Although placeholder names are submitted sometimes, it’s unclear why there is a delay in this case.

Quigley left his job at the helm of the state Department of Environmental Protection in May, following controversy over a profanity-tinged email he sent to environmental groups.


“We need a strong leader at DEP,” says Matthew Stepp, policy director for the environmental advocacy organization, PennFuture. “Quigley was a strong leader and was in the process of setting the agency on a strong path. They need someone to continue that work.”

In recent years there has been a lot of turnover in DEP leadership. Acting Secretary Patrick McDonnell is the fifth person to hold the position since 2013. McDonnell has worked at department for over a decade and has said publicly he wants the top job. He’s viewed as someone with a strong policy background who won’t stir up as much political controversy as past secretaries.

“The process to select a new secretary is ongoing,” says Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan. “No one has been interviewed at this point. The governor is still conducting a comprehensive search to fill the role.”

Find this report and others at the site of our partner, StateImpact Pennsylvania