The former chief of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), who was ousted in October by Gov. David Paterson, has joined an environmental conservation group that has questioned the state’s ability to regulate shale gas extraction.

Alexander “Pete” Grannis was appointed as special counsel to Environmental Advocates of New York. He was fired by Paterson after a DEC memo was leaked to the press indicating that additional staff cuts would cripple DEC’s ability to protect the state’s environment and public health (see Shale Daily, Oct. 27).

Grannis said in testimony before the New York Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee in November that the risk in reducing DEC staff was “backsliding on the gains we’ve made in the last decade, on clean water, clean air, cleaning up land, and working out a much more collegial relationship with the regulated community we deal with” (see Shale Daily, Nov. 23).

The former Democratic state Assemblyman and attorney was hired to advise Environmental Advocates about New York environmental policy and to lobby the state legislature.

“He not only brings a seasoned perspective on the issues, but in-depth and invaluable knowledge about how state government works and how it should work,” Environmental Advocates Executive Director Robert Moore said of Grannis.

The announcement followed Paterson’s decision to veto legislation that would have imposed a moratorium on all new drilling permits through May (see Shale Daily, Dec. 14). Instead Paterson signed an executive order to temporarily freeze hydraulic fracturing of horizontal wells while the DEC conducts a further review.

Environmental Advocates said the temporary timeout would help protect the state’s drinking water. However, it called on incoming Gov. Andrew Cuomo to “fix the loophole” that allows vertical oil and gas drilling to move forward while the moratorium is in place.