News and Updates

PRESS RELEASE: Call on Governor to Tackle Climate Change by Increasing DEC ECO Enforcement

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

New York State Environmental Conservation Officers Call on Governor to Fulfill Commitment to Tackle Climate Change by Increasing Enforcement

On Friday, December 28, President Trump announced that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would be to easing restrictions on coal power plants that would allow mercury and other toxins to be released into the air. This was the latest in a series of announcements from the Federal Government that the EPA would be reducing enforcement and restrictions on polluters. 

“The Federal government is failing to protect precious and vulnerable resources,” said PBA of New York State Director Harold Barber, an 18-year veteran of the Environmental Conservation Police and PBA Director representing its superior officers. “The State of New York must act decisively and quickly to fill the void created by the dismantling of the Federal Environmental Protection Agency. It is incumbent upon the NY State DEC to enhance its environmental enforcement activities to combat climate change, which is widely seen as the greatest threat to New Yorkers. The solution to these ongoing issues in New York State is increased environment regulation enforcement.

“Illegal pollution leads to untold environmental contaminants entering the air we breathe and the water we drink. The DEC needs to increase its enforcement efforts by supporting the Environmental Conservation Police.”

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) employs a Division of Environmental Conservation Police that has statutory statewide police jurisdiction and is tasked with a primary role of enforcing the Environmental Conservation Law. This expansive set of laws covers everything from air and water pollution, emissions regulations, storm water protection regulations, private and public land use, wetland and stream protection regulations, oil and gas regulations, mineral resources laws, and the enforcement of fish and wildlife regulations.

These State certified police officers evolved into the Environmental Conservation Police from an early start as Game Protectors, under the New York Game Commission. In 1880, their role was the enforcement of hunting and fishing regulations. In today’s complex world, this traditional role has evolved into a more comprehensive enforcement program that protects both fish and wildlife aspects, but also addresses the pollution sources that threaten them. This multifaceted approach is designed to address the complicated impacts that pollution and climate change have on the environment, including all the fish, wildlife and residents of New York State.

The force is currently staffed at approximately 260 men and women, but has previously been as high as 330 officers, and investigators. While the DEC has made some efforts to get back to an adequate level of staffing by enrolling a couple classes of recruit officers, their numbers have remained low due to a combination of factors including attrition and pay and benefits far below what comparable police units offer.

In addition to helping prevent pollution that causes climate change, Environmental Conservation Officers (ECOs) have also played a key role in responding to its resultant catastrophes. ECOs responded to save lives at the recent flooding in Lodi, NY, Superstorms Sandy and Hurricane Irene, among other events.

“This is a crucial point in time,” Barber added. “The PBA of NYS calls on the DEC and Governor Cuomo to focus on enforcement as a key aspect of his campaign to fight against climate change and federal inaction. The decimation of enforcement at the federal level means state leaders must step up now. There is an opportunity for New York State to take the leadership role away from the Federal Government and actually do something about the impending danger of climate change and have a lasting impact on New Yorkers.”

The PBA of New York State is the exclusive bargaining agent for the New York State University (SUNY) Police, the New York State Environmental Conservation Police, the New York State Park Police, and the New York State Forest Rangers. Our members police and protect New York State’s public universities and colleges; state parks and historic sites; and they enforce state laws and protect our lands and forests and ensure environmental safety and quality throughout the state.