State environmental nominee takes heat for warming remarks

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The heat is on Gov. Tom Corbett and his nominee to head Pennsylvania's environment agency, who Wednesday told a Senate confirmation hearing that he has read no scientific studies that say climate change will adversely impact humans and the state doesn't need to take any new steps to address it.

Reacting to those comments at the state Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, Allison Schwartz, a Democratic candidate for governor, called on Mr. Corbett to withdraw the nomination of Christopher Abruzzo to head the Department of Environmental Protection.

Another Democratic candidate for governor, Katie McGinty, herself a former DEP secretary under Gov. Ed Rendell, Friday challenged Mr. Corbett to "tell Pennsylvanians if he believes in climate change and whether he thinks humans have contributed to it."

A call seeking comment was not returned by Mr. Abruzzo, who was a longtime state prosecutor and a deputy chief of staff to the governor who had no experience on environment issues before his nomination. He has worked as acting DEP secretary for eight months pending approval by the full Senate, which is expected next week.

Responding to questions on behalf of Mr. Corbett, Patrick Henderson, the governor's deputy chief of staff and energy executive, said the governor continues to strongly support his nominee.

Mr. Henderson, repeating a defense offered in a letter by Mr. Abruzzo, said the nominee's comments were knowingly misrepresented by Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery-Delaware, a committee member who questioned Mr. Abruzzo about his position on climate change.

But in a letter sent to Mr. Abruzzo Friday, Mr. Leach quoted a transcript of the nominee's comments before the committee that show that he said, "I've not read any scientific sutdies that would lead me to conclude there are adverse impacts to human beings, animals or plant life at this small level of climate change."

Mr. Abruzzo also said the state is "doing it's fair share" on climate change, and the DEP doesn't have to do anything else under his tenure to combat it, according to Mr. Leach.

Mr. Leach said in his Friday letter to the nominee, that Mr. Abruzzo's lack of an environmental protection background is reflected in his climate change positions, which do not reflect the scientific mainstream, and raises concerns that "he is ill-suited to lead Pennsylvania in the fight to preserve and protect the environment and reduce our carbon footprint."

Although the state's carbon dioxide emissions are dropping, it remains one of the nation's biggest emitters of the greenhouse gas.

Mr. Henderson, in an email response to questions, said the governor believes climate change is a "serious issue and ... a complex one," and human activity is a part of the change.

"It is, by definition, a global issue requiring a global response," Mr. Henderson said, explaining the governor's position. "Pennsylvanians can be proud of their efforts to date in helping to lower emissions, which are at a nearly 20-year low."

Mr. Henderson said the governor "believes that we must be smart in the policies implemented at both the state and federal levels, to ensure that we protect our environment while also growing our economy. These two goals are not mutually exclusive."


Don Hopey: dhopey@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1983.

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