Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett’s pick for Department of Environmental Protection Secretary sparked controversy last week when, during his confirmation hearing, he told the state Senate’s Judiciary Committee that he was unaware of any “adverse impacts” of climate change on humans or animals.
“I’ve not read any scientific studies that would lead me to conclude there are adverse impacts to human beings, animals, or plant life at this small level of climate change,” Abruzzo said at the time.
Now, despite widespread opposition from the environmental community, Chris Abruzzo has been confirmed as Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Environmental Protection. Abruzzo, who was previously Corbett’s deputy chief of staff, received a 42–8 vote in favor of confirmation. Prior to the full senate vote, Abruzzo was approved 10–1 by the senate’s Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.
“His lack of credentials made him a questionable candidate; his views on climate change made him an absolutely unacceptable candidate,” said Berks Gas Truth founder Katen Feridun, who released an e-mailed statement along with the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and PennEnvironment lambasting the senate’s decision. “Mr. Abruzzo does not understand the reality of climate change, much less the urgency in addressing it.”
Since the confirmation hearing, Abruzzo has attempted to partially retract his statements, telling Philly.com’s Angela Couloumbis that he has “acknowledged that there are impacts.” Abruzzo reportedly expressed concern about the fact that humans contribute to climate change and agreed that “things like air pollution” can affect human health.
Still, representatives from the three environmental groups said they have gathered more than 10,000 petition signatures asserting that the DEP should not be led by someone who denies the realities of climate change. Marc McDill, a Penn State University forestry professor and co-author of Pennsylvania’s Climate Impacts Assessment — a document that the DEP tried to suppress — said there is “very, very strong” evidence that Pennsylvania’s climate will change drastically as the earth warms, becoming more like Virginia’s by 2050 and more like Georgia’s by 2100.
“The science on climate change is clear: More extreme weather like Superstorm Sandy that impacted millions of Americans and more droughts that are devastating crops in the Midwest,” said PennEnvironment Field Director Adam Garber said. “Pennsylvanians deserve somebody who is ready to tackle the biggest environmental threat of our generation from day one.”