The recent uproar over alleged illegal toxic dumping in and around Islip -- highlighted by criminal charges against six individuals -- could rivet new political attention on environmental enforcement.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo gets a chance to broach this matter, among many, a week from Wednesday in his annual State of the State speech, and later in January in his annual budget proposal.
Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli this month released a 25-page report focused on challenges faced by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. It says a combination of "increased responsibilities, reduced staffing, and ongoing fiscal pressure raises questions regarding the DEC's capacity to carry out its critical functions."
DiNapoli reported that the number of full-time equivalent employees declined from 3,256 in fiscal 2004 to 2,917 in fiscal 2014. Last year the group Environmental Advocates of New York linked staff curbs to a decline in inspections of various kinds.
In response, DEC spokesman Tom Mailey said: "This administration has devoted more than $16 billion for infrastructure, resiliency, clean energy and environment programs, while also investing in new technologies and streamlined management systems to make this agency more efficient. The fact remains that this is the boldest commitment of resources and attention to the state's environment in recent history."
Meanwhile, departing Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee chairman Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst) has asked for a new state probe of illegal dumping.
A NEW-YEAR COMEBACK? With the GOP already controlling the House of Representatives and preparing to take over the Senate next month, New York's congressional Republicans dwell in a strong spotlight. For a lawmaker, clout and responsibility come with membership in the majority.
In New York, Republicans account for nine of the 27 Congress members elected last month. One downstater is about to join this key caucus -- Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) who unseated Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton).
Another may be finished: Rep. Michael Grimm (R-Staten Island), who for the moment is clinging to his seat pending his sentencing for felony tax fraud.
If Grimm leaves soon, the popular former Rep. Vito Fossella -- who chose to forgo re-election in 2010 after a personal scandal -- could stage a comeback to succeed him, local GOP sources say. Currently, Fossella is a managing director in former Sen. Alfonse D'Amato's Park Strategies law and lobbying firm.