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Environmental group claims budget cuts are hurting DEC

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Albany/HV: Environmental group claims budget cuts are hurting DEC
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A new report from Environmental Advocates of New York looks at how state budget cuts are hurting the Department of Environmental Conservation. As Capital Tonight's Nick Reisman reports, the group argues department cuts make it harder to stop illegal pollution.

ALBANY, N.Y. -- An environmental group is raising concerns that the state Department of Environmental Conservation doesn't have enough resources to halt illegal pollution. On Thursday, they urged Governor Andrew Cuomo to pump more money and resources into environmental oversight and regulation.

"Clearly they need more resources. Our message to governor is that during the budget process for this year, Governor Cuomo needs to prioritize environmental enforcement and prioritize the agency," said Dave Gahl, Interim Executive Director of Environmental Advocates.

A report released by the group found sharp decreases for inspections in water pollution and penalties for polluters. At the same time, the DEC has been operating with reduced staff and fewer resources following a round of budget cuts in 2011.

Gahl said, "The recognize the resource constraints they're operating under. Our sense that they're operating with a bunch of bad options."

Pushing for additional resources at the state DEC is nothing new for environmental groups and state officials are quick to point out the 2011 spending cuts impacted all state agencies. Meanwhile, agency spending has been flat subsequent budget years.

Still, with the possibility of high volume hydrofracking being approved by the state, environmental groups say the current staffing levels won't cut it.

"The current balance of enforcement, the amount of people out in the field, the amount of resources they have is just not capable of adding something of that magnitude," said Andrew Postiglione, Fiscal Policy Associate.

The state continues to review the health effects of high volume fracking, a controversial natural gas drilling method. Earlier this year the Department of Health began a review of the process that is still ongoing. Cuomo, in February, urged patience.

"If the health commissioner says he needs more time, then the health commissioner needs more time," Cuomo said.

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