HARRISBURG The state Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved Gov. Corbett's nominee as the state's new environmental chief despite concerns raised over his statements about climate change.
By a vote of 42-8 the Senate voted to confirm Christopher Abruzzo as secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection.
Abruzzo, Corbett's former deputy chief of staff and a former prosecutor in the Attorney General's Office, had served as acting DEP secretary since the departure of Michael Krancer in March.
Abruzzo touched off controversy last week when he told lawmakers during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee that he was unaware of any "adverse impacts" of climate change on human beings or animals.
Sen. Daylin Leach (D., Montgomery), one of eight Democrats to vote against the nomination, said Abruzzo lacked background, knowledge, and passion for the environment.
"These are critical challenges on life-and-death matters," Leach said. "Pollution, climate change, expanding the use of fracking are creating a new raft of environmental challenges. We need the very best we can choose for this job."
Senate President Joseph Scarnati (R., Jefferson) defended Abruzzo, calling him a "man of knowledge and integrity" and "fair and tough as a regulator."
But Leach said he remained troubled by the fact that, while Abruzzo may accept that climate change exists, he believes that it "does no harm and that there is no downside to climate change."
Abruzzo told The Inquirer on Monday that he was concerned about human-made factors that may contribute to climate change and believed there was an impact "from things like air pollution" on human health.
The Senate also unanimously approved the nomination of Ellen Ferretti as secretary of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources overseeing the state's parks and forests. Ferretti has served as acting secretary since Corbett fired DCNR Secretary Richard Allan in June over a racially charged e-mail.