Environmental groups are praising Gov. Andrew Cuomo for choosing Joseph Martens as New York State’s new commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation. Martens served as New York’s deputy state secretary of energy and the environment from 1992-94, during the administration of Mr. Cuomo’s father, Mario. Since 1998, he served as the president of the Open Space Institute, a nonprofit at the forefront of conservation and sustainable development.
The National Resources Defense Council strongly supports the governor’s decision. “Joe Martens’ experience, judgment, and temperament make him the right person at the right time to meet the challenges that D.E.C. faces,” Ashok Gupta of the natural resources council told the New York Times. “He has the support and key relationships with the business and environmental community that will allow him to hit the ground running.”
The challenges Martens faces are many. Budget cuts and low funding plague New York State, and Martens could oversee the drafting of state regulations governing horizontal hydraulic fracturing — a hugely controversial method of drilling for natural gas. In a speech he gave last year, Martens urged the D.E.C. to move slowly on fracking until the E.P.A. clearly understands the risks.
“The tragedy of the Deepwater Horizon operation in the Gulf clearly demonstrated that the unexpected can and will happen. It is also clear that the gas industry has not been as candid as it should have been with regards to the potential for problems,” Martens said. “That suggests to me that our fate—and the need to separate objective science and environmental assessment from industry rhetoric—is in D.E.C.’s hands, and the stakes could not be higher.”
Image © Open Space Institute