Anti-Frackers Mail Cuomo

Dozens of environmental groups in Albany today calling for a complete ban on hydraulic fracturing — including the controversial high-volume method.

The call comes after the Department of Environmental Conservation released its draft report offering guidelines for high-volume hydrofracking.

“They shouldn’t be drilling,” said Wes Gillingham of the group Catskill Mountainkeeper at a rally in The Well of the Legislative Office Building. “They shouldn’t be doing horizontal drilling, they shouldn’t be doing vertical drilling because it’s an unsafe place to drill and how we found that out is by drilling.”

The groups, one of the largest anti-hydrofracking protests at the Capitol in months, delivered a letter to Cuomo asking that he not allow any hydrofracking in New York.

From the letter:

“…The ban in New York City and Syracuse watersheds will not be fully protected by the DEC’s guidelines,” the groups wirte in the letter to Cuomo. “because water is not constrained by arbitrary boundaries and neither is contamination.”

The process involves blasting chemicals and water into rock in order to release natural gas underneath. Though environmentalists fear the impact it could have on local water tables, business groups say high-volume fracking could be a boon to the hard-hit upstate economy, especially in the Southern Tier region where hydrofracking is being eyed.

The DEC draft report, which goes to a 60-day public comment period later this summer, could potentially pave the way for end on the moratorium for high-volume hydrofracking. DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said last week permits would not be issued this year while the agency continues to review the environmental safeguards.

More Layoffs Coming This Week, Glaser Warns

I’m playing some catch-up here thanks to CapCon’s Rick Karlin and his Terminator-like determination to scoop everyone, but here is a copy of the memorandum from State Operations Director Howard Glaser promising more layoffs of state workers in the immediate future.

The memo, sent to agency heads, notes the Civil Service Employee Association units, whose leadership struck a tentative deal with Cuomo administration the includes a pay freeze and less generous health insurance benefits, will be not be impacted.

The Public Employees Federation, a white-collar union, has not reached a deal with the administration. Eight-six employees at the Department of Environmental Conservation were laid off earlier today. The memo makes no reference to the ongoing discord with PEF.

From the letter:

“We embark on these reductions with the utmost reluctance. The impact on our employees and their families is painful.”

But he goes on to point out the dire fiscal situation faced by the state.

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Dems Raising Off ‘Historic’ Legislative Session (Updated)

Senate Democrats, pushed back into the minority after a single term leading the chamber, are fundraising off the most recent legisaltive session.

In a letter sent to supporters, Queens Sen. Michael Gianaris, who replaced the Bronx’s Jeff Klein as chairman of the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee, points to the legalization of same-sex marriage as one of the major highlights of the year (all but one Democrat, Sen. Ruben Diaz, voted for the bill).

He also writes that more work is needed in the area of creating an indepedendent redistricting commission, which given the enrollment numbers in New York would greatly increase the chances of Democratic re-control in 2012.

Next year could be a huge Democratic year at least in the Empire State as more of the party faithful will come out to vote in a presidential contest.

(H/T to Joe Spector at PolHud).

UPDATE: IDC spokesman Rich Azzopardi didn’t take kindly to his four-member conference being left out of the mix here, sending over this statement:

“The Independent Democratic Conferece was proud to be part of a coalition that included our four members, the four members of the Senate majority and 25 of the 26 members of the Senate minority that made marriage equality the law of the land. You don’t have to check that math.”

The full letter is after the jump. More >

Gov. Gillibrand?

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and the House’s newest member, Rep. Kathy Hochul, made a joint appearance on “Hardball” last night to push the junior senator’s Off the Sidelines campaign to get more women involved in politics.

Chris Matthews was very laudatory of Gillibrand, gushing: “I think you have a great future, everybody knows that, senator.”

He then asked if she believe’s there’s still a glass ceiling at the US Senate or gubernatorial level – slying suggesting she might someday run to be NY’s first woman governor, albeit not against her former boss (at HUD), Gov. Andrew Cuomo, “who’s doing so great.”

Gillibrand, in classic politician-speak, neither ruled anything out, nor in.

“The reality is that not enough women are running for office. I think we need a call to action for women to engage,” she said.

As Reid Pillifant, who gets the H/T for this, points out, Matthews did not ask Gillibrand about the Buffalo News report that Off the Sidelines is really little more than another fundraising arm for her own re-election campaign.

I did ask her about that during a CapTon interview last night, and she largely side-stepped the question, saying she’ll be traveling the state for Off the Sidelines events and promoting female candidates like she did for Hochul (who didn’t really manage to get much of a word in edgewise during this interview).

Gillibrand, a former Blue Dog congresswoman from upstate (NY-20 – GOP-dominated district she yanked out from under former Rep. John Sweeney in 2006), got a shaky start when she inherited her Senate seat in January 2009 from Hillary Clinton, compliments of then-Gov. David Paterson.

But she has since ingratiated herself with the left, particularly the LGBT community, and impressed politicos with her fundraising prowess and tireless work ethic. I’ve heard her called the next Clinton and even, in certain circles, floated as potential presidential material sometime down the road.

In the meantime, though, Gillibrand, who won her first statewide race last year, has to run for her first full six-year term in 2012. She’s already kicked her fundraising operation into high gear in the wake of Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos’ pledge to spend up to $5 million of his own cash to run against her next fall.

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Axe To Fall At DEC (Again) UPDATED

A reader forwarded an email sent out yesterday by a PEF member at the the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Fish Wildlife & Marine Resources Office confirming that the agency is being targeted for yet another round of layoffs.

The target, according to the message, is 5 percent of the PEF workforce statewide, which is 86 positions in the DEC alone.

UPDATE: It’s actually not as bad (relatively speaking) as expected. The latest layoff list includes 43 DEC positions. Total job losses in this round: 321, which makes for more than 700 all told for PEF.

“We do not yet know which positions in our division are targeted; we will be provided with the list by noon tomorrow (Thursday),” the email continues.

“Letters are expected to be mailed tomorrow. Regional directors will be receiving the lists of regional positions that are affected.”

“The RIF apparently is based on seniority; there is not expected to be any bumping, and the RIF is not to affect CSEA titles. Funding source for the targeted positions is not relevant. Positions were ostensibly targeted based on a percentage of the workforce.”

“The Division Management Team was not privy to the process nor were we consulted about which titles or which items should be targeted. Nonetheless, that’s little consolation to any of us. Please be sensitive to the very tense conditions that will permeate our offices tomorrow.”

As has been painstakingly chronicled by the TU’s Rick Karlin, the Cuomo administration is targeting PEF as it moves forward with its layoff plan while protecting the state’s largest workforce, CSEA, which struck a tentative five-year contract deal with the governor during the final week of the 2011 session.

DEC has already seen its ranks significantly thinned since the Pataki years. A disagreement over continued layoffs during then-Gov. David Paterson’s tenure caused a breaking point with former DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis, leading to his terminiation. (He’s now working for state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli).

It’s unclear what impact additional layoffs will have on the hydrofracking process at a time when the administration is looking to lift the moratorium and open some 85 percent of the Marcellus Shale to drilling.

DEC Commissioner Joe Martens admitted last week that a backlog in drilling permit application approvals is likely if “additional resources” are not allocated to the agency. He also stressed it’s unlikely any permits will be granted anytime soon – perhaps for as long as a year.

I’ve been told by several state worker readers/viewers that the next round of layoff notices would also include management confidential employees, but that has not yet been confirmed.

The Legislature passed a bill that extended much – but not all – of the CSEA deal to the MCs, although they went two years without a raise, and so this brings their total of annual 0 percent increases to five years – something that is not sitting at all well.

Targeting the MCs, who are not unionized and thus cannot engage in collective bargaining, would be a significant move by the administration, and one intended to send a message that no one is safe at a time when the state is trying to reach the $450 million worth of workforce savings included in the 2011-2012 budget deal.

Redistricting Compromise?

ICYMI: Assemblyman Jack McEneny, who has some harsh words for Gov. Andrew Cuomo on the subject of redistricting reform yesterday, seemed to suggest a compromise for the standoff during a CapTon interview last night.

The Albany Democrat disagreed with his LATFOR co-chair, Sen. Michael Nozzolio’s assessment that the deadline for reform has passed, although he did concur that the Legislature had to move forward with its current process absent an independent redistricting commission deal.

After saying earlier in the day that it would be “petty” and “dumb” for the governor to veto a legislative redistricting plan simply because of who drew it up, McEneny expanded on those comments thusly:

I hope the governor, and I hope people who espouse reform, will concentrate more on how than on who. Because they get into personalities, not into the rules they’d like to see.”

“Keeping communities of interest together. Respecting voter rights and minorities. We should be talking about how. And then, at the end of the process, if the governor wants to make some recommendations – if he has an independent advisory board of people who actually know what they’re doing and understand the state – then it can always be amended.”

So, basically what the assemblyman is intimating here is that LATFOR could go forward as planned, and then have its lines reviewed by a separate entity, which then makes recommendations to the governor.

That seems like the sort of halfway-there suggestion that has been quietly talked about by the goo-goos, too, with the understanding that the long-term plan would be to overhaul the entire process via a constitutional amendment like the one the Senate GOP passed this session in lieu of an independent commission bill.

AG Settles With J.P. Morgan Chase

NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has just announced a $92 million dollar settlement that New York, and 24 other states have reached with J.P. Morgan Chase for violating anti-trust laws with derivative market trading that was part of the financial collapse back in 2008.

“This fraudulent conduct completely manipulated the playing field and left public entities like governments and nonprofits at a serious disadvantage,” Attorney General Schneiderman said.

“My office has zero tolerance for such financial misconduct and will continue to work to hold those at fault responsible, and also ensure that those participating in the marketplace do so honestly and fairly”

The AG’s office says their investigation revealed that individuals at JPMC engaged in a bid rigging scheme with other institutions, defrauding governments and non-profit groups into agreeing to “contracts on less advantageous terms.”

JPMC is the 3rd Wall Street bank to reach a settlement with state’s over this type of fraud. Bank of America did so back in December, and the United Bank of Scotland settled in May.

Enough Votes For Veto Override?

As the battle over independent redistricting re-ignites, I was reminded this morning of a letter Senate Democrats sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo in April, in which the lawmakers pledged to not vote for an override of the governor’s promised veto of office boundaries not drawn by an independent commission.

The letter, sent by Sen. Martin Dilan and signed by 23 other Democrats (the Independent Democratic Conference was not included) reiterates the call for legislative boundaries drawn by a non-partisan commission.

The joint Assembly-Senate commission on redistricting met for the first time on Wednesday, with Sen. Michael Nozzolio, R-Fayette, Seneca County, saying there wasn’t enough time to set up an independent panel, given the time constraints.

Cuomo in Syracuse again promised to veto whatever lines the commission, known as LATFOR, eventually draws. A veto would throw the line-drawing powers to the courts.

A veto override needs the approval of two-thirds of both houses — 90 100 in the Democratic-led Assembly and 42 in the Republican-controlled Senate.

If a veto override is attempted, Senate Republicans would need the IDC and at least two six other Democrats to go along with them. The IDC — Sens. David Valesky, Jef Klein, Diane Savino and David Carlucci — did vote in favor of the Republican-backed constitutional amendment for independent redistricting, which would not practically take effect until 2022.

In an interview I conducted with them back in May, the IDC said they remained committed to an independent process for 2012.

Redistricting Override SignOn to Cuomo 4-6-11 (01)

Weprin To Be Dem Candidate In NY-9 (Updated)

A Democratic source has confirmed that Assemblyman David Weprin is going to be the Democrats’ candidate in the Sept. 13 special election in NY-9 for the seat left vacant following ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner’s Twitter scandal-inspired resignation.

Weprin is going to be meeting with Democrats in the district tonight and the paperwork certifying him as the candidate will be filed tomorrow.

The source tells CapTon that Weprin was picked because he is the “most loyal” of all the would-be contenders to the Queens Democratic Party – which basically picks the candidate for the special election because close to 7 percent of the district’s weighted vote is in Queens.

The source also says no agreement was made between Weprin and party leaders that he won’t run in 2012.

There has been speculation that this district would be carved up and merged with surrounding seats as part of redistricting, with NY set to lose two congressional seats as a result of its slow growth relative to other states. That means Weprin might have to primary another incumbent Democrat in a district where voters aren’t familiar with him.

Weprin may have his sights set on a different office though. If he is elected to Congress, it could increase his profile ahead of a potential run for NYC comptroller in 2013 – that is, of course, if the current comptroller, John Liu, decides to run for mayor.

Weprin ran for NYC Comptroller back in 2009, as did former NYC Councilwoman Melinda Katz, who was also up to run for the Weiner seat.

If Weprin is elected to Congress, it will be an end of an era of sorts in the Assembly. There has been a Weprin in the Assembly for 40 years starting with former Speaker Saul Weprin. Then his son Mark Weprin, and now David Weprin.

The Weprin brothers essentially swapped seats after David Weprin’s 2009 loss in the citywide elections, with Mark Weprin taking his sibling’s old NYC Council seat.

Despite the fact that David Weprin only recently arrived in Albany, his decision to accept what is widely viewed as a shot at a short-time gig in D.C. is not surprisingly. He took a big pay cut and inherited a massive commute when he switched seats with his brother. Plus, he came down in seniority. (He used to be Finance Committee chairman, back in his Council days).

Assuming he wins on Sept. 13 – and that’s not a foregone conclusion, given the Weiner scandal and the district’s enrollment – David Weprin will be able to raise his profile and make key contacts in Washington in advance of another potential NYC run.

Plus, he won’t have to drive to Albany anymore – Bonus!

After losing their presumed frontrunner, NYC Councilman Eric Ulrich, the GOP appears poised to back Bob Turner, a Queens businessman who lost to Weiner in 2010, but received about 40 percent of the vote.

UPDATE: According to Azi Paybarah, the Republicans might be headed for a split with the Conservatives, who are backing Turner, by potentially backing Juan Reyes, a Manhattan attorney with ties to former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani, it should be noted, urged Ulrich to run.

His election would also create another vacancy in the Assembly. Though, special elections for the 5 seats that are currently vacant are going to be held on the same day as the Congressional special election, September 13th.

Here And Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is taking a break from his tax cap tour. He’s in Albany and Westchester counties with no public schedule.

Cuomo’s cabinet members remain on the road. ESD President Ken Adams speaks in Oneonta at 8:30 a.m.
Canal Corp. Director Brian Stratton is in Saratoga Springs at 11 a.m. and DMV Commissioner Barbara Fiala is in her hometown of Binghamton at noon.

There’s a big anti-hydrofracking protest at the Capitol today. This while DEC Commissioner Joe Martens admitted there could be lengthy legal challenges on the horizon over natural gas drilling.

Headlines…

A Queens Democratic source says the borough’s party chairman, Joe Crowley, met with his Brooklyn counterpart, Vito Lopez, yesterday to discuss a replacement candidate for ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner’s seat. An announcement could come as early as today.

As I reported yesterday, two Assemblymen – David Weprin and Rory Lancman – have emerged as frontrunners for the Democratic nod in NY-9.

The GOP is likely to go with Bob Turner now that NYC Councilman Eric Ulrich is out of the running.

After riding to victory last year on a wave of public hatred for Albany, Cuomo changed the Capitol culture by embracing it like no other governor in modern memory.

An anonymous lawmaker described Cuomo as “Mr. Inside AND…Mr. Outside.”

Cuomo moved abruptly last week to downsize a little-known state tax department office in Chicago, giving about 40 auditors (PEF members) the choice of either losing their jobs or moving to NY.

AG Eric Schneiderman has opened a probe into whether the NFL lockout violates NY anti-trust laws.

He appears to be the first AG to involve himself in the football fight, saying he’s acting on behalf of businesses losing cash while training camps for the Buffalo Bills, New York Giants and New York Jets are idle.

A former top state agriculture regulator used his position to steer $100,000 in aid to a nonprofit group that employed his wife as a consultant, according to an IG report obtained by the NYT.

A report commissioned by NYC and circulating around Albany warns of significantly dirtier air and higher electricity bills if Cuomo goes forward with effort to shutter Indian Point.

More >