Geologist and New York State assemblyman Steve Englebright led a...

Geologist and New York State assemblyman Steve Englebright led a nature walk about the physical history of West Meadow beach as a part of the "West Meadow Wanderings" lecture series. (August 16, 2012) Photo Credit: Amy Onorato Credit: Amy Onorato Amy Onorato

Open space, water quality and climate change are critical issues on Long Island, and are key reasons why leadership of the environmental conservation committees in the State Legislature is so important to the region.

For the past 13 years, the Assembly's committee has been ably chaired by Long Islanders -- Robert Sweeney, who just retired, and predecessor Thomas DiNapoli, now the state comptroller -- each of whom served the region and the state well. This vital post is typically held by someone outside of New York City to provide geographic balance for leadership assignments. Speaker Sheldon Silver can accomplish that by naming Steve Englebright to the position.

Englebright's environmental credentials are sterling. A geologist by training, the Setauket Democrat is an ardent proponent of clean energy and open space, and knowledgeable about our waters and the threats to them. Before election to the Assembly in 1992, he was staff geologist for a legislative commission on water resources for Long Island. He authored a bill that created a pesticide-use registry to explore a possible link to breast and other cancers, and worked on pivotal pine barrens protection legislation as a Suffolk County legislator.

But Englebright is not a provincial environmentalist. He has spoken about the need to identify alternative water sources in the event of a terrorist incident that compromises New York City's reservoirs, and to protect both Long Island and the city from the dangers posed by what are likely to be more frequent and more intense storms.

Englebright's temperament and experience command respect. Silver should do the right thing and give him the nod.