Governor Corbett’s pick to head the state Department of Environmental Protection says he is unaware climate change can be harmful.
Chris Abruzzo, who has been Acting DEP secretary since April, was speaking before the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee this morning about his nomination and was asked about his views on the topic.
“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.
Abruzzo told the committee he does believe climate change is occurring and that it seems to be at least partially attributable to human factors, but he does not view it as harmful and sees no reason for Pennsylvania to adopt new policies to address it.
“I think Pennsylvania’s already doing at least its fair share, if not more than its fair share,” he said. “Climate change is a global issue.”
The committee approved his nomination with a 10-1 vote. They also approved the nomination of Ellen Ferretti, Acting Secretary of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources 11-0.
Sen. Daylin Leach (D- Delaware) cast the sole vote against Abruzzo, calling his climate change comments “mind-blowing.”
“This is a reflection of what I view to be a lack of seriousness with which the governor treats environmental issues,” said Leach. “It’s just not a serious nomination.”
Abruzzo’s professional background has not been focused on environmental issues. He has worked under Corbett for many years, as deputy chief of staff in the Governor’s office and before that, in the drug enforcement section of the Attorney General’s office. He’s spent most of his career as a prosecutor– dealing with criminal cases, including drug trafficking and Medicaid fraud.Speaking at an event last month hosted by Blank Rome– the law firm of former DEP Secretary Mike Krancer– Abruzzo said when he was first appointed last spring, he did not expect to be leading the environmental agency for more than a few months.
“I don’t think until I sat in [Krancer's] chair, that I realized how challenging it is to lead an agency that, in many respects, is driven every single day by science and facts.”
Climate scientists have been issuing warnings for years about how warming can adversely affect humans and ecosystems– including rising sea levels, species extinctions, and risks to crops.
“Both abrupt changes in the physical climate system and steady changes in climate that can trigger abrupt changes on other physical, biological, and human systems present possible threats to nature and society.”
In September, scientists from around the world gathered in Sweden to release the latest report from the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). They now say with near certainty that humans are affecting the climate.
“It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century,” the authors write.
Penn State University climate scientist and professor of meteorology, Michael Mann, has contributed to the IPCC’s assessments.
“It greatly concerns me to hear comments like this,” he writes in an email, responding to Abruzzo’s statements. “They reflect an apparent profound ignorance of the actual state of scientific understanding.”
The full Senate is expected to vote on the nominations of Abruzzo and Ferretti next week.