This story has been updated.
Contrary to what some environmental advocates claim, state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner, Joseph Martens, says he is not leaving the agency. An employee at the DEC, who is also a union representative, told NYER that employees had also heard rumors last week that Martens was stepping down.
A spokesman for the agency, Thomas Mailey, told NYER that he spoke with Commissioner Martens directly, and that Martens confirmed he is staying at the DEC. Martens has been commissioner since 2011.
The perceived threat of a leadership change at the DEC had heightened concerns about Governor Cuomo’s next steps regarding high volume hydraulic fracturing.
The Governor has been criticized for not taking a clear position on fracking during his first term in office, despite a public review process that began in 2009. Over 13,000 New Yorkers submitted comments in response to the state’s initial review of the environmental impacts of fracking. A revised impact statement was released by the DEC in 2011.
A statewide moratorium remains in place while the Department of Health continues to work on a study of the public health impacts of fracking. Governor Cuomo stated during his one gubernatorial debate that a decision on the practice would be made by the end of the year.
The DEC is the agency that would issue drilling permits if the state gives the go-ahead. It would also be responsible for monitoring fracking operations in order to protect public and environmental health. The agency has lost over 800 employees since 2008.