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Source: Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin

Paterson under fire for sacking of DEC commissioner

BY JACOB FISCHLER

Posted: October 24, 2010
Originally Published: October 22, 2010

ALBANY -- Environmental groups, unions and lawmakers on Friday publicly condemned Gov. David Paterson's decision to abruptly fire state Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner Pete Grannis.

Grannis' termination on Thursday came shortly after an internal DEC memo was leaked to the media this week that bashed Paterson's proposed layoffs at the agency.

The agency is slated for 209 layoffs this year. If the layoffs go through, it will have lost 23 percent of its work force since 2007, the memo said.

"We find it abhorrent that the governor and his staff fired our commissioner without a hint or an elementary consideration of due process, which is a strong principle of the labor movement and the American judicial system," said Wayne Bayer, who sits on the executive board of the Public Employees Federation union.

He noted that Grannis did not have a chance to confront the governor prior to his termination.

Jessica Bassett, spokesperson for Paterson, said it was Paterson's decision to fire Grannis. She said Grannis will not be reinstated.

"The governor is working on behalf of the entire state and he has to make the best decisions that are in the interest of the entire state," she said.

Grannis said Thursday he was asked Wednesday by Paterson's top aide, Lawrence Schwartz, to resign over the memo. When Grannis refused, he was fired.

A former state assemblyman from Manhattan, Grannis said his termination was "unwarranted."

"The top environmental cop in the state was fired for telling the truth," said Bill Cooke, director of government relations for the Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

Assembly Energy Committee chairman Kevin Cahill, D-Kingston, Ulster County, said in a statement that the "wrong-headed move will cost New Yorkers dearly."

The New York Public Interest Research Group, along with several other organizations, is calling on Paterson to immediately reinstate Grannis. They held a news conference at the Capitol on Friday.

"If Gov. Paterson does not reinstate Commissioner Grannis, I think what we would seek is that the next governor consider replacing Pete Grannis with Pete Grannis," said Robert Moore, executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York.
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Paterson's term expires at year's end, when a new governor will take office. The major party candidates that are angling to replace him -- Republican Carl Paladino and Democrat Andrew Cuomo -- were both asked about Grannis' firing in Binghamton on Friday.

"The governor terminated the commissioner and I leave it to the governor; it's his decision," said Cuomo, who added that it's "a little premature" to speculate on who he would appoint if elected. "I'm sure if the governor did it, he did it because he believed he had good cause."

Paladino said Friday morning he couldn't comment immediately because he wasn't aware of the firing.

Severe funding cuts to the DEC are having an impact on New York's environment, said John Sheehan, spokesman for the Adirondack Council.

According to Sheehan, acid rain stations in the Adirondacks have been shut down because of a lack of funding. Funding cuts have also led to a reduction in the number of rangers watching over New York's natural landscapes.

It remains to be seen what kind of effect Grannis' firing could have on potential natural gas development in New York. Drilling in the gas-rich Marcellus Shale formation, which covers the Southern Tier, has been on hold since July 2008 as the DEC reviews its permitting guidelines.

"I don't think it's good," said Julie Lewis, vice president of the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York. "(Grannis) was doing his job, doing what he was supposed to be doing. My concern is that we don't know who his replacement is going to be, but we hope that person will be supportive of the natural gas industry coming into the state.

Next Page1| 2Previous PageALBANY -- Environmental groups, unions and lawmakers on Friday publicly condemned Gov. David Paterson's decision to abruptly fire state Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner Pete Grannis.

Paterson's term expires at year's end, when a new governor will take office. The major party candidates that are angling to replace him -- Republican Carl Paladino and Democrat Andrew Cuomo -- were both asked about Grannis' firing in Binghamton on Friday.

"The governor terminated the commissioner and I leave it to the governor; it's his decision," said Cuomo, who added that it's "a little premature" to speculate on who he would appoint if elected. "I'm sure if the governor did it, he did it because he believed he had good cause."

Paladino said Friday morning he couldn't comment immediately because he wasn't aware of the firing.

Severe funding cuts to the DEC are having an impact on New York's environment, said John Sheehan, spokesman for the Adirondack Council.

According to Sheehan, acid rain stations in the Adirondacks have been shut down because of a lack of funding. Funding cuts have also led to a reduction in the number of rangers watching over New York's natural landscapes.

It remains to be seen what kind of effect Grannis' firing could have on potential natural gas development in New York. Drilling in the gas-rich Marcellus Shale formation, which covers the Southern Tier, has been on hold since July 2008 as the DEC reviews its permitting guidelines.

"I don't think it's good," said Julie Lewis, vice president of the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York. "(Grannis) was doing his job, doing what he was supposed to be doing. My concern is that we don't know who his replacement is going to be, but we hope that person will be supportive of the natural gas industry coming into the state.

Public Service Editor Jennifer Fusco and Staff Writer Jon Campbell contributed to this report.