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Source: The Buffalo News

Firing of Grannis draws criticism

Posted: October 24, 2010
Originally Published: October 23, 2010

Environmental groups Friday slammed Gov. David A. Paterson for firing the state’s environmental commissioner.

Pete Grannis, commissioner of the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, was fired after a memo he had prepared was leaked stating that the 209 staff cuts Paterson demanded on top of 260 lost to early-retirement incentives would seriously impede the agency’s effectiveness.

“The agency has lost about 20 percent of its scientists, engineers and enforcement officials over the last few years,” said Rob Moore, director of Environmental Advocates. “I think Gov. Paterson has been dismantling the agency for two years and he’s finally cut off its head.”

Brian Smith, Western New York program director for Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said, “This is a dark day for New York’s environment. The DEC has been more of a target by this administration for disproportionate funding and staff cuts than any other state agency . . . Instead of working to fix the problems, the governor just made them worse.”

Grannis’ leaked memo, reported by the Albany Times Union on Tuesday, warned fewer polluted sites would be cleaned and fewer regulators would be available to oversee the expected natural gas drilling boom in the Marcellus Shale that extends into southern New York.

“Many of our programs are hanging by a thread,” it said. “The public would be shocked to learn how thin we are in many areas. DEC is in the weakest position that it has been since it was created 40 years ago.”

Laura Haight, senior environmental associate for the New York Public Interest Research Group, said, “When someone like Pete Grannis, who worked at the DEC in the early 1970s, and championed environmental laws in the State Legislature for 30 years before serving as commissioner, says that the agency is at its weakest point in history and that critical environmental programs are ‘hanging on a thread,’ people ought to listen. Instead, Gov. Paterson fired him.”