Although there has been no official announcement, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office has confirmed to the Times Union newspaper that the state commissioner of Environmental Conservation will leave his post.
DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos was appointed by Governor Cuomo in 2015. On Wednesday, word came that Seggos would leave the Democratic administration and an online posting for the job appeared.
Environmental organizations in the Adirondacks agree that it appears to be a typical transition to a new term for the governor wherein a number of leadership positions change. Cuomo was elected to a third term on Tuesday.
“There are some other changes you know going on in the executive chamber. We really don’t know the full extent of the changes but you know a new term can sometimes bring changes.” Adirondack Mountain Club Executive Director Neil Woodworth notes that there’s been no reason announced, but a commissioner’s position is demanding. “He has been someone who has been very strong on clean air and I think climate change issues. On some of the Adirondack issues basically he’s made decisions for DEC that are strongly in line with what the Governor’s position was and I think that was also true with the Adirondack Park Agency. That both agencies when they made important decisions for the Adirondack Park they were closely aligned with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s positions.”
Adirondack Council Spokesman John Sheehan says Commissioner Seggos has done a good job with limited resources. “His personnel has not really changed much in the last decade but their challenges have evolved including additional lands in the Adirondacks that require some management and maintenance that there weren’t always the resources to make happen. So he has done the best he could with the resources at hand and he’s done a job that requires him to be familiar with the problems that can occur not just in the Adirondacks and the areas around it, but on Long Island and in the ocean, in New York City and in Buffalo, each of which have quite unique environments to tend and conservation issues to oversee.”
Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan characterizes Seggos as a strong environmental leader and is disappointed to see him leave. “He’s been an advocate for the Environmental Protection Fund which provides support for critical environmental initiatives throughout the state. We have worked successfully on many fronts including conserving critical lands and habitat in the Hudson River Estuary, on climate change and we were very pleased that Commissioner Seggos helped stop a proposed heavy crude oil processing facility in the Port of Albany. Commissioner Seggos has taken a great leadership position in calling on EPA and General Electric for additional cleanup of PCB’s in the Hudson River.”
However, Protect the Adirondacks Executive Director Peter Bauer says he is not impressed with Commissioner Seggos’ tenure at the DEC. “Commissioner Seggos helped to complete land acquisition deals and that was a great accomplishment no doubt about it. But you know his lasting legacy in the Adirondacks will be his zealous support for motorized access to the Forest Preserve. The other, even more important, is that he also zealously worked to weaken state environmental laws for the Adirondacks.”
The Department of Environmental Conservation emailed the following to WAMC Thursday afternoon:
Statement from DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos: “After nearly seven years of serving New Yorkers and implementing Governor Cuomo’s steadfast commitment to the environment, I made the difficult decision to leave the best job I've ever had. I’m proud that we have reestablished the state’s national leadership on environmental issues—and it couldn’t come at a better time, as we face an unprecedented attempt at the federal level to undermine our efforts to stave off climate change and safeguard clean air and water for future generations. While I have not yet set a date for my departure, I am as committed as ever, and intend to remain in this post into 2019 to help chart out the next steps in the Governor’s vision.”
Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, during Commissioner Seggos’ tenure New York:
- Increased and sustained the state’s Environmental Protection Fund at $300 million for the last three years;
- Finalized the largest Forest Preserve addition in the history of the Adirondack Park with the Boreas Ponds acquisition;
- Shepherded the Governor’s four-point $65 million initiative to reduce the frequency of harmful algal blooms;
- Advanced the landmark $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act and invested hundreds of millions of dollars to improve New York’s water infrastructure;
- Taken nation-leading action to investigate and cleanup unregulated contaminants like PFOA and PFOS and ensure communities have access to clean water; and
- Encouraged New Yorkers to get outside and experience the outdoors sustainably and responsibly; and
- Worked tirelessly to safeguard the state’s natural resources for future generations.