On January 4, 2011, Governor Andrew Cuomo nominated Joseph Martens for the position of Commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Protection.
Martens has experience as both a public servant and an advocate for conservation issues. Since 1998, he has served as the President of the Open Space Institute (“OSI”), a New York-based nonprofit organization that aims to “protec[t] scenic, natural, and historic landscapes to ensure public enjoyment, conserve habitats, and sustain community character.” At the Open Space Institute, Martens oversaw the acquisition of large tracts of land in New York State for conservation and recreation. Martens was Deputy Vice President of the OSI from 1995-98. Prior to this position, Martens served as Governor Mario Cuomo’s Deputy Secretary for Energy and the Environment from 1992 -1994 and Assistant Secretary for Energy and the Environment from 1990 -1992.
In addition to his record as a conservationist, Martens has considerable ties to upstate New York. According to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s press release, Martens is the “Chair of the Olympic Regional Development Authority, which operates the 1932 and 1980 winter Olympic venues in Lake Placid and Wilmington, NY and Gore Mountain Ski Area in Johnsburg, NY. He also chairs the Adirondack Lake Survey Corporation, which continuously monitors Adirondack lakes and streams to determine the extent and magnitude of acidification in the Adirondack region.”
Martens’ nomination, which is subject to confirmation by the State Senate, has been praised by the New York League of Conservation Voters, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Independent Power Producers of New York.
If confirmed, Martens would succeed Acting Commissioner Alison Crocker. Crocker succeeds Peter Iwanowicz, who was appointed after former Commissioner Pete Grannis was dismissed from office in late October 2010 following the leaking of a memo protesting layoffs at that agency. Grannis has since been appointed First Deputy Comptroller in the office of State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.
Tasks and challenges facing Martens include the completion of the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement for horizontal drilling and high-volume hydraulic fracturing to develop the Marcellus Shale for natural gas, and the operation of an agency in the aftermath of major budget and staffing reductions.
 Governor Cuomo’s press release announcing the Martens nomination contains the comments of the Independent Power Producers of New York and is available here.