EPA hires GOP assemblyman to oversee NY, NJ

An 11-year, Republican assemblyman whose district dips into Ulster County has landed a job as the Region 2 administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency,  overseeing EPA operations in New York and New Jersey as well as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Peter Lopez, who lives about 50 minutes west of Albany in Schoharie, was first elected to the Assembly in 2006 and represents a six-county district that includes a single town in Ulster – Saugerties. He started to run for Congress in 2015 but stepped aside for fellow Republican John Faso, who went on to win New York’s 19th Congressional District seat.

Lopez, 56, is a longtime politico who started out as a Schoharie village trustee at age 21 and has been elected town councilman, town supervisor, county legislator and county clerk, according to his Assembly website. He also has worked for various state legislators, including Faso when he was an assemblyman and state Sen. John Bonacic of Mount Hope. He serves on the Assembly’s environmental conservation committee.

The EPA announced his appointment on Thursday.

Basil Seggos, New York’s environmental conservation commissioner, congratulated Lopez on his new job, with a passing note of anxiety about the EPA’s new direction in the Trump administration.

“While his arrival at EPA comes at a time of great uncertainty for the future of the agency, I look forward to working with him to ensure our environment and precious natural resources remain protected for all New Yorkers,” Seggos said in a statement.

Their first test could be the EPA’s oversight of the removal of toxic PCB chemicals that General Electric and other factories dumped in the Hudson River decades ago. Seggos declared in June that the EPA had “failed” New York by determining that dredging has done its job and left the river “protective of human health and the environment.”

“We strongly dispute their conclusions and maintain that the significant amount of contamination left in the river threatens both public health and the environment,” Seggos said at the time.

Lopez also faces a host of environmental issues in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands as those Caribbean islands struggle to recover from devastating storms.

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