Albany – Assemblymember Kevin Cahill (D-Ulster, Dutchess) participated in an Environmental Conservation hearing today to examine the impacts of the 2010-11 State Budget on the staffing levels and programs of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). The focus was on how the DEC would implement layoffs and what the impact would be on its numerous environmental programs and facilities.
“Budget cuts and staff attrition have pushed the DEC to the brink, and with the recent firing of Commissioner Grannis, the agency is struggling to meet its responsibilities,” said Assemblymember Cahill. “It is important for us to make sure the DEC is on track so they can continue to monitor our air and water quality, clean up polluted sites, process environmental permits and maintain public lands and facilities.”
Peter Iwanowicz, Acting Commissioner of the DEC, and Pete Grannis, Former Commissioner, kicked off the hearing with testimonies that detail the impact of budget cuts on the agency. Both were subjected to hours of questioning on staff cuts and the DEC’s ability to maintain core services such as air and water protection, environmental reviews and land stewardship. Assemblymember Cahill focused specifically on disproportionate impact of the cuts on the Department and more specifically, the Belleayre Mountain Ski Center, which is facing an 81% reduction in permanent staff. He also highlighted the impact on economic development and reviews of new energy facilities.
Joseph F. Kelly, Chairman of the Coalition to Save Belleayre Mountain, and Jack Jordan, Shandaken Town Board Member, testified on the importance of the Belleayre Ski Center and to warn against any further reductions in funding. The hearing room was filled with Belleayre employees and supporters.
“The Center is the main economic driver for the Route 28 Corridor and creates hundreds of seasonal jobs each year,” said Assemblymember Cahill. “The surrounding communities depend on the yearly influx of nearly 200,000 visitors to sustain their quality of life.”
Assemblymember Cahill posed questions on the disproportionate cuts to the Belleayre Ski Center in recent years, highlighting the uncertainty many employees are facing as they shift from full time to seasonal work.
“The Belleayre Ski Center represents the bulk of economic opportunity in the area,” said Assemblymember Cahill. “Any reduction in funding to the Center creates a devastating effect to both the local economy and to the county and municipal governments that rely on tourist tax revenues to pay for essential services without further increasing property taxes.”