Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Memo


The most salient point about the firing of Peter Grannis of the New York State Department of Conservation and the memo that got him fired is that our government still thinks something else comes before our environment. Of course many individuals and various alleged media outlets think there are more important issues, but trust me: if your environment fails, so does everything on your ‘to do’ list.

This reported justification for the firing of the DEC head was that he spelled out what the gutting of the DEC personnel will mean to the DEC’s ability to monitor and police our environment (which many probably see as merely a belt-tightening issue). But this issue is really about maintaining the quality of our local environment in a time of economic stress. There’s no other way to see this. However this issue is spun in the press, the end result is compromising our environmental health by removing 209 more people who monitor and protect our environment. When you short-change the DEC, there will be environmental abuses.

Leaked Memo Depicts Bare-Bones Regulatory Environment for NY Gas Drilling - ProPublica (10/26/20100 “The leaked memo that led to the dismissal of New York's top environmental official last week depicts a severely understaffed agency that has struggled to adequately perform its duties over the past two years and is ill-equipped to supervise natural gas drilling. All of the meat has been snipped free of the bones, and some of the bones have disappeared," wrote Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis in the memo. "Many of our programs are hanging by a thread."

As you read the memo (written as the result of a request from the governor’s budget commission) and leaked (not by the chief), you get a sense of what gutting the DEC further will be like. For a moment, try not to see the memo as an indictment against anyone, but as a list from which to check as the DEC loses personnel whose job is to monitor and protect our environment.

“According to this memo, here are some impacts New York has already experienced and can expect to see more of because of cutbacks to the DEC budget:

· The agency is cleaning-up fewer petroleum spills;

· Inspections and enforcement activities have dwindled;

· There is less oversight of mine safety and oil and gas drilling;

· Efforts to plug leaking abandoned wells have been cut;

· Backcountry patrols by rangers and conservation officers have been significantly reduced;

· DEC's fish hatcheries may be closed, resulting in a reduction in economic activity supported and induced by fish stocking;

· Cuts to the Minerals Division will mean fewer staff available to review applications and oversee activities related to Marcellus Shale;

· Elimination of the DEC's voluntary brownfields program, will shift their focus to remediation only on State Superfund sites;

· Clean-up and redevelopment of contaminated lands will take additional time;

· Reviews and approvals of industrial, commercial, and residential development projects (especially [sic] in regional offices) have slowed; and

· Priority infrastructure initiatives will be affected (such as a second Peace Bridge in Buffalo, high speed rail corridors and major renewable energy projects).”  DEC Memo Urges New York to Limit Cuts to Agency Budget - GrowWNY

This isn’t “Oh, boo hoo for the DEC, let’s get real; everybody is suffering in this recession.” This is the profound insight that we need to adopt if we are to be a sustainable community: We should not think our economy’s performance is in any way more important than the environment:

“The natural environment, encompasses all living and non-living things occurring naturally on Earth or some region thereof. It is an environment that encompasses the interaction of all living species” Natural environment - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

It would be fool hardy for a stricken traveler on a long journey in a scorching desert to gulp down the entire contents of his canteen; in the same way we must protect and preserve our environment, most especially when our economy is floundering.

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