There’s a scary story brewing at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). After a memo [PDF] was leaked to the press last week detailing massive cuts and layoffs, DEC Commissioner Alexander Grannis was fired. Rumors abound about the dark forces that might be at play here but the really scary stuff is the potential fate of New York State’s environment.
With the huge threat of hydraulic fracturing looming in the distance, Grannis' years of experience and leadership with the agency could have provided sound judgment about how to best absorb the impending budget cuts and the loss of 150 of the current 3,100 employees.
Even scarier are cuts that have been made at the agency. The current administration has already killed nearly 600 jobs. And although the DEC accounts for less than 3 percent of the state workforce, proposed cuts within DEC will account for more than 16 percent of the state’s proposed cuts, sending a lot of people into early retirement and seriously curtailing the state’s inspection and enforcement activities.
This is no sci fi horror flick – this administration clearly has other priorities than environmental protection.
Employees stuck in the middle of this story have risen above the political mess and focused on the real story – protection of the environment. This could become a difficult role to play out, given dwindling staff numbers, unclear leadership, declining morale and interrupted professional lives. Hopefully, the elections next week will bring us leaders who embrace the health and welfare of the state’s environment. Although we need economic growth, we cannot have a healthy economy without a healthy environment. It’s just not possible! We need a governor and a legislature that will rewrite the ending of this monster movie.
Several guides are available for New York State that rank and rate current [PDF] and potential legislators' and governors' environmental standings. Take a moment to read about the most pressing issues we face and where the candidates stand on those issues. For a national view check out the League of Conservation Voters national site.