Agency of Natural Resources is re-structured

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(Host) The Douglas Administration has announced a sweeping re-structuring of the Natural Resources Agency.

George Crombie, the agency secretary, says the goal is to organize the agency’s staff around the environment it is supposed to protect.

VPR’s John Dillon has more:

(Dillon) George Crombie says the Natural Resources Agency of today was built to solve the environmental problems of a generation ago.

In the 1970s, pollution came from smokestacks that fouled the air or pipes that ran sewage into rivers.

According to Crombie, many of those “point sources” have largely been addressed. He says today’s problems are more difficult and more diffuse like storm water run-off. He says the agency’s structure needs to reflect the underlying change in its work.

(Crombie) “Our mission has changed. And the agency that was designed and constructed to deal with end-of-pipe solutions is no longer that. But it’s an agency that has to totally integrate with the community at large and to come up with solutions that, in my view, are much more complicated than they were 20 to 25 years ago.”

(Dillon) Crombie has proposed more than a
dozen new centers within the agency that will try to tackle environmental problems across disciplines and departments.

He gave the example of water protection. The agency now is divided into offices that regulate water supply, waste water, water quality and storm water.

The new plan is to create a center for watershed management that will incorporate all the various sections.

(Crombie) “We are going to bring them all together into one center so that all the pieces that are done on the land will be managed and evaluated together. Because the reality of it is that the water is okay, if you are protecting the land.”

(Dillon) Other centers will focus on climate change and waste reduction, habitat management, and Lake Champlain clean up.

The agency has 626 employees and an annual budget of about $80 million. Crombie says no one will get laid off or see a salary cut under this reorganization.

But job titles and assignments will change. Middle managers – the division directors – may get re-assigned.

(Crombie) “I think what will happen is that with these changes their jobs will be a lot more exciting than they are today.”

(Dillon) It’s unclear how many of the proposed changes require legislative approval. David Deen is a Westminster Democrat who chairs the House Fish, Wildlife and Water Resources Committee.
He said the plan presents some bold ideas, such as Crombie’s proposal for a “green” center for environmental technology.

But Deen wonders if the federal government, which funds many of the state programs, will allow the change.

(Deen) “Conceptually, that’s a good idea. You should turn people lose to be imaginative and inventive. The fact is will the federal and state laws allow for the ideas that are come up with, or we will have to change law. You know, this is the start. I am intrigued with the idea.”

(Dillon) Secretary Crombie has set an October deadline for the centers to deliver their recommendations. He wants the changes to begin early next year.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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