Senate confirms Corbett's nominees for top environmental posts
The state senate has confirmed Governor Corbett’s nominations for Pennsylvania’s two top environmental regulatory positions.
Ellen Ferretti was unanimously confirmed as secretary for the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Chris Abruzzo was confirmed as secretary for the Department of Environmental Protection with a 42-8 vote.
Abruzzo’s nomination was more controversial, due to comments he made last week before a senate committee. He told the panel he was unaware climate change can cause environmental harm.
Sen. Daylin Leach (D- Montgomery) voted against Abruzzo’s nomination in that committee hearing, and did so again today, reiterating concerns he was unfit for the job.
“I feel I have to vote ‘no’ to bring attention to the importance of these issues,” said Leach.
Sen. Jim Ferlo (D- Allegheny) who has called for a moratorium on natural gas drilling, also voted against Abruzzo’s confirmation, calling him a “partisan political operative.”
Sen. Gene Yaw (R- Bradford) stepped in to defend Abruzzo, and praised his work at the helm of the agency.
“I strongly support this nomination,” said Yaw. “He has gained a reputation and respect as a problem-solver.”
Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) voiced his support as well.
“I can tell you firsthand that the secretary has been fair and tough as a regulator on the drilling industry.”
He added that Abruzzo should not be seen as unfit for the job, simply because he does not entirely agree with the scientific consensus around climate change.
Scarnati then confused weather with climate, citing the recent snowfall as evidence against global warming.
“As a matter of fact,” he said, “anyone who has ventured outdoors the past few days may very well have good reason to disagree with that point of view.”
Abruzzo’s professional background is as a prosecutor. He’s 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. Ferretti has spent her career working on environmental issues in and out of government. She previously served as DCNR’s deputy secretary for parks and forestry.
Both nominees were already serving in their respective positions. Abruzzo took over at the DEP in April, after former secretary Mike Krancer took a new job. Ferretti stepped in to head DCNR in June after Corbett fired her predecessor Rick Allan.