Friday, October 22, 2010

DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis Fired Over Leaked Critical Memo

According the Albany Times Union, the governor’s top aide, Larry Schwartz, called DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis to demand his resignation over a DEC internal memo made public. The leaked memo highlighted consequences of further cuts as a result of Governor Paterson's proposed reductions to an all ready understaffed agency.

”Here I am being called on the carpet for doing what we were supposed to do, for being asked to tell the administration what the cuts they want meant,” Grannis said. “Apparently facts don’t sit well with this administration.”

Paterson spokesperson Morgan Hook confirmed to A Walk In The Park that Mr. Grannis was dismissed and that any other details as to why is a "personal matter and we are not going to get into why we made the decisions that we made. "

Mr. Hook said he expects a replacement to be officially named by the beginning of next week.

This is the second official to leave a top New York State environmental position recently, on September 23, Carol Ash, Commissioner of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) resigned after being appointed in 2007 by former Gov. Eliot Spitzer. Her resignation is effective this month. – Geoffrey Croft


Pete Grannis, the commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation since 2007, was fired Thursday by Gov. David Paterson. A state source said it was due to “poor performance and insubordination,” according to Capital Confidential.

A front-page story in Tuesday’s Times Union described one likely cause: the leak of a memo sent by DEC to the Budget Division that laid out in stark terms the possible consequences of the planned layoffs of more than 200 agency employees.

Alexander B. Grannis in his Albany office in April. He was fired on Thursday, after a memo about cuts in his staff was leaked. (Photo:Mike Groll/Associated Press)

The unsigned, undated memo warned that fewer polluted sites would be cleaned up, fewer regulators would be available to oversee the potential natural gas drilling boom in the Marcellus Shale, and stocking of game fish could halt.

In order to avoid cuts to programs that protect human health or address immediate environmental damage, the memo suggests the most logical places for deep cuts would be outdoor recreation and sports — including skiing, fishing, hunting, camping and hiking.

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

Paterson spokesman Morgan Hook confirmed the dismissal but would not comment. DEC spokesman Yancey Roy also declined comment.

A long-serving former Assembly member from Manhattan, Grannis was appointed to the top job in DEC by former Gov. Eliot Spitzer in 2007. Grannis’ bio on the DEC’s website notes that he began his career in public service at the agency in the early 1970s, when he worked as a compliance counsel.

Update: In an interview Thursday night with TU environmental reporter Brian Nearing — who wrote the article on the leaked memo — Grannis said that Larry Schwartz, the governor’s top aide, called him about 4 p.m. Wednesday to demand his resignation over the memo becoming public.

”Here I am being called on the carpet for doing what we were supposed to do, for being asked to tell the administration what the cuts they want meant,” Grannis said. “Apparently facts don’t sit well with this administration.”

Read More:

DEC commissioner Pete Grannis fired (updated)
Capitol Confidential - October 21, 2010 - By Casey Seiler

DEC Internal Memo Warns Governor Against Further Cuts
A Walk In The Park - October 20, 2010


  1. This is a poor decision by the Governor and lowers my opinion of his performance. Commissioner Grannis should be praised for his commitment and accomplishment.

  2. Good riddance, he was a shill for energy companies, was demanded to be fired so he can go in the revolving door and work for his corporate bosses rather than wait one year, if he resigned when the new gov comes in. LEarn more: I am respectfully asking you to remove Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis and Director of the Division of Mineral Resources Bradley J. Field from their positions, and replace them with individuals willing and able to restore public trust in the Department and in its ability to safely regulate shale gas extraction.

    New Yorkers are entitled to have a Department of Environmental Conservation headed by officials who can be relied on to place public safety and the conservation and safe development of our natural resources above all other interests; but all too often Mr. Grannis and Mr. Field seem to have favored the natural gas industry over the public.

    Moreover they have relied on and perpetuated misinformation, half-truths and dissimulation to achieve their goals. This assertion is not a matter of perception or opinion - it is an objective statement borne out by the facts:

    Throughout 2008, when the gas industry was actively leasing land for shale gas extraction, the DEC misled the public by refusing to acknowledge that high-volume hydraulic fracturing of horizontal shale gas wells would be significantly different than previous gas drilling operations in New York State. Director Field's mantra that hydraulic fracturing "has been going on in New York for decades"1 seemed deliberately designed to lull the public into thinking that the Marcellus Shale gas play would resemble the low-volume fracturing operations that we had seen in the past. Numerous inquiries to the Division of Mineral Resources prompted unsigned responses claiming that nothing new or different would be involved.

    Also in 2008, the DEC succeeded in pushing a new well-spacing bill though the state legislature with little debate and scant public scrutiny. Although this "departmental" bill"2 was explicitly designed to facilitate the drilling of gigantic horizontal wells which threaten to radically alter the landscape of western New York, Commissioner Grannis disingenuously characterized it as "a technical program bill [that] had nothing to do with anything related to environmental protections."3 Instead he claimed it was "designed to protect adjacent landowners".4