The top official in the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources was ordered to resign by Gov. Corbett today, the governor's office said in a press release.
Corbett "asked for and received the resignation of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Richard J. Allan." the statement said.
Allan, 59, a former scrap metal dealer from northeast Pennsylvania with no public land management experience, was named as DCNR secretary shortly after Corbett took office in Jan. 2011.
Ellen Ferretti, who had been picked by Allan to be the deputy secretary for parks and forestry, was named acting secretary effective immediately.
His controversial handling of proposed gas drilling in Loyalstock State Forest in the north central region of the state over the past nine months sparked outrage among environmentalists, some lawmakers and park enthusiasts.
Environmentalists say Allan was negotiating in secret with drilling company Anadarko Petroleum that wanted to open drilling on 18,000 acres in the forest, while excluding the public from involvement in the process.
Allan is the sixth Corbett cabinet secretary to resign in the last nine months, following the departures of the secretaries of the Deparment of Environmental Protection, Public Welfare, Health. Education and the Inspector General.
"It appears to us that this forced resignation came as a result of mishandling of the drilling situation in a state forest, specifically the unwillingness of DCNR to involve the public in the controverisal Loyalstock State Forest drilling proposal," says Jeff Schimidt, executive director of the Sierra Club of Pennsylvania . "We now call on Gov. Corbett to stop the back room dealing with Anadarko Petroleum."
Just two days ago, a coalition of environmental groups representing 100,000 citizens called on Corbett for public release of the gas drilling proposal and a 90-day comment period, including statewide public hearings.
Story updated to reflect Allan is sixth cabinet member to resign. Education secretary Ron Tomalis resigned last month.
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