State Senate confirms environment, labor secretaries

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HARRISBURG -- Some Republican senators had done a lot of complaining about longtime environmentalist John Hanger, Gov. Ed Rendell's choice to be state environmental secretary, but in the end he was easily confirmed.

The Senate voted 45-5 yesterday to remove the word "acting" from before his title. Senators also, by the same margin, confirmed Sandi Vito as secretary of labor and industry.

The five GOP senators who voted against Mr. Hanger were Mary Jo White of Venango, Donald White of Indiana, Jane Earll of Erie, Mike Folmer of Lebanon and Bob Robbins of Mercer.

Mrs. White, in particular, had been critical of Mr. Hanger during his 10 years as head of Penn Future, a leading state environmental group. He headed the group from 1998 until September, when the governor nominated him for the DEP job.

He had issued scathing criticism of some legislators during his time with Penn Future, claiming they were too close to some polluting industries. At a hearing three weeks ago, he apologized for some of the things he'd said, saying his role as an environmental advocate was quite different than his role as state environmental secretary. He is also a former member of the state Public Utility Commission.

Ms. Vito won confirmation despite an embarrassing incident last month that led to her seeking alcohol treatment. She was cited for public intoxication when she drank too much at a Harrisburg hotel and balked when officials there tried to get her to take a taxi instead of walking home.

Harrisburg Bureau Chief Tom Barnes can be reached at or 717-787-4254.


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