By: Joshua Henne
By kicking-off his gubernatorial campaign in January – 22 months before Election Day – state Sen. Scott Wagner, R-York, fully expected to make a big name for himself in 2017.
But no one could’ve predicted it would be for his bizarre ramblings on climate change. He not only garnered statewide headlines, he also went viral nationwide.
By now, you’ve probably heard about Wagner’s curious remarks: “I haven’t been in a science class in a long time, but the Earth moves closer to the sun every year. You know, the rotation of the Earth. We’re moving closer to the sun…We have more people…You know, humans have warm bodies. So is heat coming off?” And that’s the short version.
PennWaste – the trash company Wagner’s built on taxpayer-funded municipal contracts – traditionally posts a heartwarming late April message on its website.
In the past, they’ve written “Although we only celebrate Earth Day once a year, it is important to remember that you can do your part each and every day.”
However, I’m not sure Wagner wants a microscope on how he conducts himself when it comes to the environment throughout the year.
In July 2014, PennLive Reported That Wagner “Makes A Decent Portion Of His Living Out Of Municipal Contracts.” [PennLive, 7/22/2014]
Recently, PennWaste’s spokeswoman, Amanda Davidson, who also draws a campaign paycheck, claimed Wagner is “a staunch advocate for protecting our environment.”
The facts don’t bear this out.
Over the past several years, Wagner’s businesses received well over 30 Department of Environmental Protection violations.
In 2014, even the Pennsylvania Senate Republican Campaign Committee hammered PennWaste’s “environmental violations from the state” and highlighted a history of their leaking trucks.
Moreover, as is often the case when anyone dares criticize his business practices, Wagner deflected: “Any attacks on me personally or my company are an insult to all of the hardworking employees that are a part of our team, our county-owned disposal facilities, the customers and the communities we serve.”
Following Wagner’s electoral victory and velvet coup of the very establishment he railed against, we won’t be seeing Harrisburg Republicans bring this up again.
Especially now that Wagner controls levers of power with all the money he’s poured into right-wing coffers throughout Pennsylvania from both his personal piggy bank and PAC.
With the Trump administration committed to rolling back protections at the national level, we need leaders in the states standing-up for our environment.
There’s no way Wagner fits that bill – evidenced by his votes for a state budget that reduced funding for both the Delaware River Basin Commission and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
Last month, Wagner suggested to an assemblage of natural gas advocates, that he’s not an “environmental activist.”
This isn’t a newsflash. His gubernatorial website doesn’t have a single mention about his vision for the environment.
This isn’t shocking since Wagner voted against nearly every such initiative that came his way in the legislature. He’s garnered an anemic 20 percent rating from Pennsylvania’s leading environmental group.
Even sadder, that’s an improvement from a few months earlier when Wagner was one of only two senators meriting a zero rating.
In attempting to clean-up the climate change gaffe, Wagner’s chief-of-staff-turned-campaign-manager said “He’s not running to be the top scientist in the state.”
However, Wagner also said, “the real question isn’t is the climate changing, but what role should the government play in trying to alter it.”
Well, we’ve already seen how Wagner prioritizes the environment. He voted for a state budget opening-up parks and forests for drilling. Wagner also voted for a bill requiring legislative approval for certain plans from the DEP – which creates bulwarks to implementing emission-cutting plans.
Additionally, he voted to reduce the “buffer zone” for streams – allowing developers to build much closer to water sources than they had in the past, menacing water quality and threatening to contaminate the supply for communities throughout the Keystone State.