Saturday, October 02, 2010

When the cat’s away the mice will play

In a time of recession, budgets will be cut, people will lose lobs, and it will hurt.  We get it.  However, this message often gets directed to some and not to others.  Usually, the oppressed are the recipients of this austerity message.  Regardless of who caused the recession (because holding those accountable seems impossible because they hold so much power), we make our corrections on the backs of the poor, government workers who keep our infrastructure going, the least likely to be able to fight back, and always our environment.

In good times (booms) and bad (recessions), the thing to do to balance the budget and magically save us from ourselves, from our pollution and neglectfully ways, is to trash our environment: we get to pave it, develop it, drill it, pollute it, shoot it, and forget it altogether.  But, that’s suicidal.  Gutting  New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the agency responsible for protecting our environment in lean times and good, means when the cat is away, the mice (industry, individuals) get to do whatever they want with our environment.

Here’s the DEC’s mission:  "To conserve, improve and protect New York's natural resources and environment and to prevent, abate and control water, land and air pollution, in order to enhance the health, safety and welfare of the people of the state and their overall economic and social well-being. DEC's goal is to achieve this mission through the simultaneous pursuit of environmental quality, public health, economic prosperity and social well-being, including environmental justice and the empowerment of individuals to participate in environmental decisions that affect their lives.”

Rationally, the thing to do would be to increase the staff at the NYS DEC.  When things get tough, people start trashing the environment.  They take shortcuts; they dump when they should recycle; staff, who are supposed to make sure industry and government don’t misbehave, are getting the pink slip.  Desperate schemes, like drilling for natural gas to provide jobs and make money and warm the planet with more greenhouse gases, gets less scrutiny and less environmental enforcement.

Here’s the situation: Environmental groups decry DEC budget cuts - Canandaigua, NY - MPNnow “Environmental groups say Gov. David Paterson is hobbling the state’s ability to protect its natural resources by ordering hundreds of job cuts at the Department of Environmental Conservation. Paterson has called for cutting 2,000 of the state’s 200,000 employees by year’s end. Budget divison [sic] spokesman Eric Kriss says Wednesday each agency has been given a target for total staffing. That number is just more than 2,900 at the DEC.” (September 30, 2010)  Note that the governor proposes to make his entire job cuts through DEC cuts only, and this actually leaves 900 additional job openings across the rest of the state’s staff.

But you can do something about it says Environmental Advocates New York: “The Governor recently ordered New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to lay off 209 employees by the end of the year. Added to the hundreds of staff who have taken up the Governor’s early retirement incentives and those lost due to the hiring freeze over the past four years, New York’s environmental agency has lost nearly one quarter of its entire workforce since 2007. The DEC monitors air and water quality and cleans up oil and toxic chemical spills—but only if it has the staff to do so.  The agency has been cut 15 percent this year, and now is looking at a disproportionate number of layoffs, too, more than any other single agency. These cuts leave the DEC with its lowest staff levels since the 1980′s, despite an increase in responsibilities. It’s like the Governor is asking the environmental agency to clean up New York’s hazardous waste with a toothbrush and a garden hose. Gutting environmental enforcement can’t be the way

Go here to act: Save the DEC: Tell Gov. Paterson NOT to Cut Staff at NY's Enviro Agency

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