An open letter to Christopher Abruzzo, acting secretary of the Pa. Department of Environmental Protection
By State Sen. Daylin Leach
I received your letter taking issue with the statements I made regarding your testimony before the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee this week. I appreciate your letter and am sorry you feel that your views were mischaracterized. I agree with you that we should address important issues and each other respectfully. That said, I feel that my descriptions of your statements were accurate and, therefore, I stand by my statements.
Before I get to the specifics of the complaints you raised in your letter, I think it is important to provide some context. As you know, you met with me in my office a few days before the committee hearing. At that time, I asked you the same precise questions I asked you at the hearing. In particular, I asked you what your views were of climate change and the impact of human behavior on such change.
As I'm sure you remember, you told me at that time, in my office and in the presence of several members of my staff, that while you "wouldn't deny" that the climate was changing, you "were not convinced" that humans were the cause. I asked you what scientific publications, studies, periodicals, etc., you had read that caused you to doubt human involvement. You said you could cite nothing in particular, but that you had read "newspapers."
You may have gleaned from my reaction at that meeting that I was taken aback by your answer. That is why I repeated the question at the hearing. I had hoped that after having some days to think about it, you could provide an answer more in comportment with the overwhelming consensus within the scientific community. I was not intending to be tricky, confusing, or esoteric. It's just that climate change is the basic environmental question facing us at the current time and you are nominated to be the person primarily responsible for formulating and enforcing solutions to this problem.
This brings us to the hearing. I would note that what you did and did not say at the hearing is not a matter of opinion, or the subject of a he-said, she-said debate. What you said was actually recorded. And the quotes attributed to you in media accounts of the hearing were not provided by me. They were derived from reading the transcript or listening to the tape.
In your letter to me, you say three things. I would note that my press release and my verbal statements to the media were made without benefit of a transcript and were not meant to be exact quotes, but rather reasonable and fair restatements of the meaning of your testimony. I assume your quibbles are not with specific words, but with what you claimed to be a misstatement on my part of the meaning and import of what you said.
First, you say that you never said that climate change is not man-made. In fact, based on review of the transcript, you said, "I won’t argue that among the factors that contribute to climate change, humankind would seem to be one of those factors. I also would argue that - or at least my observation is - that natural climate fluctuations over the course of time are also a factor in that analysis, but I won't argue that climate change exists."
As I'm sure you know, that is not the scientific consensus on this point.
You say that you never said that climate change is "not a problem". Here, word for word, is what you did say.
“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.”
Unless you are alleging that the recording of the committee hearing was somehow doctored or falsified, it seems obvious that your statement that you've seen no evidence of "adverse impacts to human beings, animals, or plant life" can be reasonable construed as not being a problem. If there is no harm to any living thing on planet Earth, then what sort of "problem" could there possibly be?
Finally, you say that you never said that Pennsylvania has no obligation to take any additional steps to remediate climate change. Here, Philadelphia Inquirer Report Angela Couloumbis listened to the tape of the hearing, and reported as follows:
“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.”
You specifically said that Pennsylvania was doing enough to combat climate change already and that there was "nothing" else Pennsylvania should be doing. Even in today's letter to me, you repeat that Pennsylvania is "doing their fair share" as if because there are some other places on the planet that are not addressing climate change aggressively enough (and there are many that are), we are free to continue to spew carbon without any regard the consequences to "human beings, animals or plant life" you still refuse to acknowledge.
Let me conclude by saying again that I have nothing against you personally. You seem like a decent person who has accomplished much. But none of your accomplishments or experience are relevant to environmental protection. Given the political realities in Pennsylvania today, there is no doubt that you will be confirmed. I only hope that with time you will come to appreciate the critical role your new job plays in tackling the most pressing issue of our time, and that you will prove wrong my concerns that you are a climate change denier who has no intention of addressing this issue aggressively.
Sen. Daylin Leach, District 17