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Environmentalists react to Grannis firing

DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis was fired last week by the Paterson Administration after a memo about job losses at the agency was leaked to the press. Photo by Gazette file.
October 25, 2010
It's appalling," said Roger Downs of the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club.

That seems to be the consensus of environmental groups around the state regarding news that Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis was fired.

Grannis was fired last Thursday by Gov. David A. Paterson's top aide Larry Schwartz. According to The Associated Press, the immediate cause of the firing was attributed to a leaked memo from the DEC to the governor's Division of the Budget outlining the detrimental effects 209 staff cuts Paterson ordered for the agency would have on the environment.

The governor's office confirmed last Friday that Grannis had been fired but issued no additional comments.

"This is the final injustice against this agency," said Robert Moore, executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York. Moore was with Grannis last Thursday night when he received the call from Schwartz telling him he was fired. Grannis was receiving an award from the New York Water and Environment Association at the Hall of Springs in Saratoga.

"He has been dismantling this agency for years, and he finally took its head off," said Moore, referring to Paterson. According to Moore, the DEC has seen a 20 percent reduction in its workforce over the past two years, losing several hundred staff, including scientists and enforcement agents.

Environmental advocacy groups are crying foul, saying Grannis was fired for doing his job, protecting the people of New York. "Rather than keep his mouth shut, he told the governor's office the truth," said William Cooke, director of government relations for Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

Downs is calling on the governor to reinstate Grannis. "We think the governor has lost his mind," he said, adding that he belives there will be a lot of pressure on the governor from environmental groups to rescind his decision.

Grannis, a former assemblyman who represented the Upper East Side of Manhattan and Roosevelt Island, was appointed DEC commissioner in 2007 by Gov. Eliot Spitzer. Since assuming the position, he has been credited with instituting a new solid waste management plan, working on the restoration of the Great Lakes, researching environmental effects of natural gas drilling in the Marcellus shale and restoring wildlife habitats across the state.

"I am confident that [Grannis] will continue to be a strong advocate for environmental protection and health protection for the people of New York State," said Cooke.

  1. print email
    October 26, 2010 | 08:57 AM

    When General McArthur thought he was more important than the President, the President fired him for insubordination. Thus went Grannis, who was similarly insubordinate and disrespectful of the Governor. Now, Grannis is no McArthur and Patterson is surely no Truman, but the principle holds. Grannis had turned DEC into a branch office of the Sierra Club and Environmental Advocates, backing a series of regulations and rulings which both Democrats and Republicans found offensive if not bizarre. The open burning regs are placing more costs on rural towns whose taxpayers cannot afford them. The anti-wood boiler rules would have forced the rural poor into a choice of food or heat. And the granddaddy of the bizarre was Grannis' Save the Plankton campaign to close the Indian Point nuclear power plant, which produces 1/3 of NYC's electricity, in order to save plankton and fish eggs in the 1 percent of the Hudson River water the plant uses for cooling. Grannis should have been fired on policy grounds long ago. He was eventually fired for the same reason Truman had to fire McArthur.

    Bob Sarbane
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