Q.Do you see yourself as an environmental watchdog or is the reality of your job a little bit more complicated? A case in point: Your department favors allowing companies to exploit New York state ’s natural gas reserves through hydraulic fracturing, which involves injecting chemicals and water deep into gas-bearing rock, even though the E.P.A. worries that the drilling could endanger the water supply and air quality and wants a fresh study. Can economic considerations sometimes trump environmental safety concerns? What pressures are brought to bear?
A.It would be incorrect and an oversimplification to say my agency favors drilling. Natural gas drilling is legal in New York. D.E.C.’s job is to police it, to ensure that the regulatory scheme includes all the necessary environmental protections. We don’t weigh that against economic or other considerations. Any claims to the contrary are just part of the public-relations noise generated by either side of the debate — and that’s to be expected on a hot-button issue like this…D.E.C.’s job is not just to bark about environmental problems. We are a watchdog and more. We set conditions, monitor problems and go after violators all while acting within the context of state law. D.E.C. oversees all types of businesses and industries — power plants, dry cleaners, trash haulers, even crematories — but it doesn’t mean we favor or oppose them.Do I feel pressure? Absolutely. Pressure to protect the environment.
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