Friday, October 22, 2010

DEC Commissioner Fired over "Leaking Memo" regarding Budget cuts

NY Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) commissioner, Alexander "Pete" Grannis, got the boot yesterday over a kerpuffle about a leaky memo, extreme budget cuts and, as one guy in Governor Paterson's administration put it, "insubordination".

The governor's budget office had directed state agencies to slash their budgets, demanding that DEC slice 6.6% of its workforce. That's 209 people over and above the 600 already cut since April 2008. Agreed, every agency should do its part to reduce the state payroll, but Grannis complained that DEC was targeted disproportionately. "DEC accounts for approximately 2.5% of the workforce," he wrote, "yet DEC's layoffs will comprise more than 10% of the 2,000 positions the Governor plans to eliminate."

The problem with these extreme reductions, says Grannis, is that the DEC's federal and state mandates have continued to grow. Cuts at this time will fundamental compromise "the Department's responsibilities to preserve the state's environment, protect human health and meet its obligations to the public," he wrote. Even now, Grannis noted that DEC is already responding to and cleaning up fewer petroleum spills.

They don't have enough people.

DEC's inspections and enforcement activities have dwindled for all programs, Grannis says, including hazardous waste, air emissions, and mining and drilling safety.

They don't have enough field inspectors.

DEC's reviews of environmental impacts and issuance of permits now takes longer, Grannis says. "There is less oversight of mine safety and oil and gas drilling, and efforts to plug leaking abandoned wells have been cut." Why?

They don't have enough people.

"All the meat has been stripped from the bones, and some of the bones have disappeared," Grannis wrote. The only solution is to start eliminating programs. But what should DEC eliminate? Hunting, fishing and recreation? Regulatory oversight? Drilling permits?

"Ironically, these cuts have come in the midst of increasing recognition of the DEC's importance to economic development." Without permits, campers can't camp, hunters can't help manage the deer herd, and drillers can't exploit all those vast Marcellus reserves they are so eager to drill.To meet the Governor's budget goals, NY may have to turn some of its programs back over to the federal government for environmental oversight.

Apparently the budget office does not want to hear this bad news. And someone - Grannis swears it wasn't him - leaked the memo to the Times Union of Albany. The governor's office, concerned about the memo leak, asked Grannis to resign. He refused and so on Thursday, the Governor's office gave Grannis the boot.

You can read the now infamous October Layoff Memo  here or at Scribed.

1 comment:

  1. When NYSDAM's funding was cut, custom meat inspection was turned back over to the USDA but dog licenses were given to local municipalities. Wouldn't it be nice if home-rule was returned to local municipalities on gas drilling. Is the time right to push for repeal of Article 23?