Today's confirmation hearing for Gov. Corbett's nominee to head the Department of Environmental Protection was largely rolling along smoothly until a climate-changing question - on climate change.

Sen. Daylin Leach (D., Montgomery) asked Acting DEP Secretary E. Christopher Abruzzo whether he believed in climate change, and whether he thought humans have contributed to the earth's temperature rising. Leach, no doubt, was remembering an exchange earlier this year between legislators and the DEP's former secretary, Michael Krancer, who seemed reluctant to give a definitive answer to the very same question (Krancer later clarified his views).

Abruzzo on Wednesday told senators on the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee that scientific evidence points to climate change, and that people certainly play a role in it.

But, said Abruzzo, "I have not read any scientific studies that would lead me to conclude that there are adverse impacts to human beings or to animals or to plant life at this small level of climate change. But I agree there are impacts."

That got Leach rolling. "That's odd," the senator said, noting that there are frequent stories in numerous news outlets about what he called "the immediate and drastic results of climate change on species' diversity, on human sustainability, on deaths from air pollution, on all kinds of things."

"You've not read any of that?" Leach asked, looking incredulous.

To which Abruzzo responded: "Climate change is such a broad topic. I would say that I haven't drawn any conclusions across the board. I do agree that it exists, and I think that there are things that we, not only as Pennsylvanians, but we as Americans and we as citizens of the planet can do to address some of the factors that contribute to climate change."

Abruzzo also said that Pennsylvania is doing "its fair share" to address climate change, and that he does not believe there is anything else the DEP should do, under his tenure, to combat it.

Leach was the only senator to oppose moving Abruzzo's nomination out of committee for consideration by the full 50-member Senate, expected within the next week. He said he believed Abruzzo, a longtime prosecutor who later served as a deputy chief of staff to Corbett, had "no obvious experience in environmental protection, and that manifests itself in things like not knowing the science behind climate change."

"This is not a reflection on you," said Leach. "There are many positions that you would be qualified for. I do not think this is one of them."

Separately, the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee on Wednesday unanimously approved moving out the nomination of Ellen M. Ferretti, who is now acting Secretary of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

-Angela Couloumbis

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