The state Department of Environmental Conservation came out firing against a report on its inspection efforts from an Albany-based advocacy group Thursday, saying it “distorts key facts, omits others and outright ignores” Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s environmental record.
In a statement issued Thursday afternoon, the DEC said the Environmental Advocates of New York study—which found DEC inspections of polluting sites declined 35 percent from 2009 to 2012—includes inaccurate information.
“This report distorts key facts, omits others, and outright ignores this administration’s strong environmental record,” DEC spokesman Peter Constantakes said in the statement. “It’s disappointing that even after DEC officials provided Environmental Advocates with correct data, they proceeded to publish inaccurate information.”
The advocacy group, however, is standing by the report and says the DEC hasn’t actually pointed out any inaccuracies.
Specifically, the DEC claims it “inspected every one of the 30 permitted hazardous waste facilities in (New York State in 2012, contrary to (Environmental Advocates’) assertions,” and inspected 839 facilities that generate hazardous waste despite not being required by the EPA.
But the advocacy group’s report groups together the 30 storage facilities with the generating sites and came up with the same number of total 2012 inspections—869, which the report found was down 16 percent from 2009.
The DEC’s full response can be found below, while the Environmental Advocates’ report can be found here.
From the DEC:
Specifically, here are some examples that demonstrate how EA’s information is inaccurate:
• DEC inspected every one of the 30 permitted hazardous waste facilities in NYS in 2012, contrary to EA’s assertions. In addition, DEC maintains on-site monitors at six of these facilities. And although not required by EPA annually, in 2012 DEC conducted 839 inspections of hazardous waste generator facilities, which typically handle small quantities of hazardous waste.
• Inspections of facilities that possess clean air permits were consistent with those conducted in 2009, again, contrary to EA’s claims, despite there being fewer title V facilities operating in the State. With respect to stack tests, EA ignores a change in testing methodologies****, whereby a facility’s stack test now is counted as one test even if there is testing for multiple pollutants; previously, the count included each individual pollutant from a single facility. Air emissions in New York have decreased 20 percent since 2000 and compliance levels have improved over the past decade.
• Facilities with SPDES permits (clean water) have shown a 97 percent compliance rate, as DEC continues to exceed federal compliance monitoring commitments. And in demonstrating its continued commitment to clean water, just last month, DEC made available $45 million for water quality improvement projects and today, the Environmental Facilities Corporation approved $450 million in grants and low-interest loans to assist municipalities in protecting public health and the environment by developing or upgrading water supplies, which also creates economic development opportunities . In fact, EFC had a record-breaking year with $1.9 billion in total financing for these types of projects.
Other key facts:
• Over the past three years air emissions have declined by 20 percent.
• Overall, facility compliance rates have continued to increase over the past decade, which has resulted in fewer violations and, therefore, less need for enforcement actions. We have worked to reduce or eliminate many antiquated and cumbersome paper-based requirements, allowing us to redirect staff at vital projects, including storm recovery and flood mitigation in the aftermath of Sandy, Irene and Lee.
(**** Environmental Advocates claim they accounted for the change of methodology in their report.)