Wayne Bayer speaking on behalf of PEF/Encon:
Chairmen Farrell, Sweeney, Thompson and Honorable Members of the Joint Fiscal Committees
I am speaking on behalf of myself and the PEF/encon steward council representing 2000 Public
Employees Federation Members of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation..
Earlier today you heard Commissioner Grannis mention the significant reduction in DEC staff.
For the record, this is adecrease of 514 staff from the FTE level in 1990. As the Commissioner
also mentioned this reduction in staff has happened concurrently with the NYS Legislature, the
US Congress and the Department substantially increasing the Departmentís regulatory and
statutory responsibilities. Unfortunately, the DEC professional staff, while appreciative of the
Commissionerís remarks that DEC has a very competent, professional and dedicated staff that
will strive to fulfill the Agencyís missions with even more cuts in staff positions and resources,
PEF/encon is not optimistic that all of DECís responsibilities can be met. These additional
proposed cuts make DEC a shadow of what it once was and what it was envisioned to be 39
years ago at its conception. As we indicated in our 2007 testimony, DEC was then and is still
operating with triage management and drive by inspections.
Chairman Sweeney and Commissioner Grannis had a discussion earlier about DEC reducing the
number of contract employees at DEC where the Commissioner indicated DEC was actively
proceeding to reduce the number of contractors. Unfortunately, there is some discrepancy
between the rhetoric of intentions and the reality. In spite of NYSís fiscal crisis, DEC continues
to rely on costly consultants to perform work that could be done by in-house staff. Two
1. The Division of Environmental Remediation recently issued a work assignment to Camp
Dresser McKee (CDM) to assist in the inspection of approximately 1,200 federally regulated
bulk storage facilities over the next two years. This work is funded under a grant from the EPA
to meet EPA requirements under federal law.CDM, typically bills for services at rates
between 30-80 percent higher than the cost of a state employee (including benefits).
2. According to the Executive Budget, DEC expects to employ175 consultant employees, an
increase of 14 from the previous fiscal year at an average of $198,800 per consultant
employee.Members of this joint committee should ask DEC to justify why they are hiring these
consultants and why they are substantially under reporting the number of consultants at DEC in
apparent violation of the Procurement Stewardship Act of 2006. The June 2008 Joint labor
management committee minutes reported that DEC had close to $71 million dollars in previously
unreported contractors. Why?
Short Staffing Causing Some Hazardous Problems in Marine Fisheries
The November 2008 Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) annual report said that
DEC's shellfish program is nowstaffed at the lowest level it has been at since 1986. Of the 31
full-time positions in the shell fisheries section, 11 are now vacantĖtwo more than FDA
reported.. "These staff reductions will jeopardize the unit's capacity to meet the sanitary survey
requirements ... and adequately protect public health." Moreover, the FDA report indicates that
lack of environmental staff threatens New Yorkís ability to ensure that shellfish harvested
or sold in NYS are safe to eat. How much does the DEC and the legislature care about shellfish
Lack of adequate staffing at DEC also hurts employment in the private sector and damages
NYSís ability to compete in the shellfish industry. According to the FDA report, lack of
staffing led the DEC to suspend its conditional certification program this year, shutting out
baymen and shellfish wholesalers from 6,000 to 7,000 acres of historically productive shellfish
beds accessed when water conditions permit. The suspension frustrated some who make their
living on the water. One local Long Island trustee indicated that hiring just one more bioligist
could employ 200 people to harvest and sell shell fish.
More importantly, the FDA report highlighted another program that could be jeopardized by
staff cuts: one that protects consumers from a potentially deadly shellfish toxin detected in
Northport waters in 2006 and 2008. "To administer this program, DEC must collect numerous
shellfish meat samples and plankton ... throughout Long Island," the FDA said, adding that
"understaffing" could limit its effectiveness.
Continuing Problems in Lands and Forests
PEF/encon has testified previously about massive staffing shortages in Lands and Forests that
deprive NYS of revenues from environmentally productive sales of lumber and forest products.
Those shortages have become worse. How can NYS and DEC deprive taxpayers of a revenue
stream that creates $3 for every dollar invested? What legislator would turn down a 3-1 return
on their investment? With NYSís deficit budget, DEC should not ignore that revenue stream.
DEC has still not surveyed huge parcels of land acquired by NYS nor has it surveyed the huge
number of acres with enviromental easements under DEC alleged management. DEC is still way
behind in developing unit management plans for state lands and DEC can not truthfully tell the
legislature that all parcels of land under DEC jurisdiction are adeqately managed and protected.
Perhaps the legislature should consider a draconian ban on the purchase of any more state lands
as some Senators earlier suggested, until such time as an independent auditor can assure the
lands we presently own and are allegedly responsible for is adequately managed! Not doing so,
is approaching fraud, by giving the taxpayers the impression that their land acquisitions and
natural resources are being adequately protected and preserved.
DEC is still way behind other states in devoting staff to protecting our forests from invasive species.
PEF/encon and PEF would like to add itís support to the proposed recreational salt water fishing
license for the Bigger, Better, Bottle Bill and for other environmental regulatory fee increases.
I must comment briefly on two issues that have raised considerable interest in earlier testimonies
and follow-up questions:
First, regarding the decision to close the Reynolds Pheasant Farm. PEF/encon has 3 comments:
1. In addition to the sporting organizations and sporting communities not being consulted prior
to the decision to close the farm, we would like to say that the professional career staff was also
2. We donít know if the agencyís cost benefit analysis of the savings to be achieved factored into
the equation the loss of revenues from in state and out of state bird hunters using local lodging,
food, service stations and other commercial entities. We are not sure if the analysis of the offset
of bird hunting licenses and permits was adequately calculated.
3. Some of the career civil servants at DEC (who remember the merger of the old Conservation
Department with some state health department programs in 1970) wonder if DEC is still
committed to the promises made to the continuation of and support of traditional wildlife and
conservation programs. They raise the issue that if the Division of the Budget and DEC can get
away with the closure of one pheasant farm this year, what is to say that next year it wonít be
fish hatcheries? And the year after that will it be public and state campgrounds??
There have been a number of questions about the viability of the stateís Brownfields program,
and the uncapped tax credits drain on the state treasury. PEF/encon urged the legislature at
previous yearís budget testimony to reexamine this program and limit the tax credits because of
the potential abuse and unlimited tax credits. There were some changes made in the Brownfields
revisions last year, with input from many of the architects of the original program that didnít
cross the "tís" and dot the "I"s on the original bill. Well, the tax credits are still too high and the
vagueness of language in the legislation is causing enormous delays in Brownfields applications,
investigations and remediations. So much so, that DEC is experiencing rejection from the courts.
Should the same people involved in the 2 earlier iterations of the Brownfields program be given
a third chance to make more mistakes?
The final comment is that many DEC professionals working in the environmental remediation
program believe that the Brownfields program is diverting too many agency resources to sites
that have marginal contamination and would have been economically viable for investors and
developers to clean up anyway. These diversions are at the cost of doing more serious
investigations and remediations of more heavily contaminated sites. For example, many uninvestigated
old dry cleaning establishments.
Thank you for the opportunity to provide this information. I will be happy to attempt to respond
to any questions you may have now or in the future as will many other PEF/encon
Last Updated on January 20, 2009