DEC chief leaving, second in command stepping up

Times Union | July 1, 2015 | Column by Brian Nearing

State commissioner leaves after four years; new acting leader to confront oil train issue

DEC Commissioner Joe Martens announces a $1.4 Million In Conservation Grants To Statewide Land Trusts during a news conference at Indian Ladder Farms Thursday April 24, 2014, in Altamont, NY. (John Carl D'Annibale / Times Union archive)

State Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens' chief lieutenant, who will succeed Martens when he steps down sometime this month, will face a to-do list that includes increasing shipments of crude oil through the state by massive trains and on the Hudson River in barges and tankers.

Taking the acting helm at DEC will be Executive Deputy Commissioner Marc Gerstman, who came in after Martens was tapped by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2011.

In his email, Martens wrote that Gerstman would provide "a seamless transition and continu- ation of the many initiatives we have in the works."

Gerstman's earlier private legal work was for theAdirondack Council, for which he handled land use and ATV issues.

"Marc is smart enough to know that his to-do list starts with Gov. Cuomo and his mission," said Adirondack Council Executive Director Willie Janeway. "He has really big shoes to fill from Joe Martens."

Martens is leaving DEC after four years to return to the New York City-based not-for-profitOpen Space Institute as a consultant on climate change issues. He announced his departure in an email to DEC staffers late Tuesday, a day after the agency finalized a controversial state ban against natural gas hydrofracking that had been announced in December.

Martens gave as examples lowered greenhouse gas emissions, flood control, water quality, acquisition of state land, reformation of the brownfield tax credit program — and the seven-year review of hydrofracking that ended with a decision to ban it.

Ned Sullivan, president of Scenic Hudson, said the fracking ban was Marten's signature legacy. And he said the foremost item on Gerstman's agenda should be tightened controls on the surging shipments of Midwestern crude oil into the New York.

At the Open Space Institute, where Martens was president from 1998 to 2010, his new mission will be to "develop strategies for promoting the important role of smart and effective land conservation in combatting climate change," said John Adams, chairman of the board of trustees.

Under state law governing conflicts of interest, former state officials cannot practice before their former agencies or receive compensation for services for two years after leaving the state.

"We are aware of the restrictions, and we don't foresee a problem with the scope of work and support he will be lending to our efforts," said OSI spokeswoman Eileen Larrabee. "Climate change is a national conversation, and not specific only to New York.''

Prior to coming to DEC under Martens, Gerstman had worked at the agency for 13 years starting under Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, leading its legal team as deputy commissioner and general counsel. For another 16 years he had his own law practice specializing in environmental, natural resource, land use, zoning, administrative and municipal law.

bnearing@timesunion.com • 518-454-5094 • @Bnearing10

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commented 2015-07-02 20:44:05 -0400 · Flag
I don’t have high hopes for Gerstman to have the backbone to stand up to big oil or the Governor. Maybe we can exert some influence when it comes time to choose a permanent Commissioner? But, that’s probably a reach, as well.
PAUSE, People of Albany United for Safe Energy posted about DEC chief leaving, second in command stepping up on PAUSE, People of Albany United for Safe Energy's Facebook page 2015-07-02 16:36:07 -0400
DEC chief leaving, second in command stepping up
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PAUSE, People of Albany United for Safe Energy
PAUSE is a grassroots group of individuals who have come together to promote safe, sustainable energy and fight for environmental justice. We engage the greater public to stop the fossil fuel industry’s assault on the people of Albany and our environment.