Turning a Blind Eye to Illegal Pollution (September, 2013)


New York has a robust body of environmental protections, and justifiably so. Environmental protections are inextricably linked to our state’s economic well-being and sound public health.

But as the result of sustained budget cuts during the last decade, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has been forced to choose between increasingly poor options when it comes to enforcing the law.

Based on data reported by the DEC to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) this report demonstrates that environmental enforcement is on the decline. Further, the state is increasingly reliant on polluter-produced self-monitoring reports to oversee their compliance with environmental permit conditions.

Governor Andrew Cuomo often speaks about the need to make state government work better. And in some instances, he has. Governor Cuomo has led important green initiatives, such as dedicating more resources for preservation and conservation projects.

But the failure to address enforcement issues at the DEC will ultimately sully his record. And while the Cuomo administration is not responsible for the deep staff cuts of previous administrations, the Governor’s philosophy has been for his agency to do less with less, leaving it struggling to protect public health, safety, and our shared environment.