Department of Environmental Conservation

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Office of General Counsel

Office of General Counsel

The Office of General Counsel (OGC) provides legal advice and support to DEC's Executive and program staff to fulfill the Department's many statutory responsibilities. Among its primary responsibilities, OGC provides advice on all legal requirements related to the Department's programs and activities; enforces environmental laws and regulations; represents the Department in permit proceedings; assists staff in developing and implementing regulations; and advises staff on legislative proposals.

OGC is headed up by the Deputy Commissioner and General Counsel, assisted by two Deputy Counsels. Each of the Department's nine regional offices has a Regional Attorney and staff attorneys who report to the General Counsel. In addition, OGC includes the Office of Environmental Justice , which works to improve the environment in minority and low-income communities, and to address disproportionate adverse environmental impacts that may exist in those communities.

OGC's Central Office attorneys and other professional staff are organized into bureaus that report through a Deputy Counsel. The Central Office Bureaus are:

Air Bureau

The Air Bureau provides legal advice on all facets of the Department's air program, including:

  • Regulation of air pollution sources such as motor vehicles, open burning, personal water craft, energy plants, factories, incinerators, automobile spray paint booths, adhesives, paints and personal care products, including deodorant and hair spray
  • Permitting of facilities that emit regulated substances to the air
  • Adopting regulations and enforcing the various statutory and regulatory requirements
  • Preparing state implementation plans

In addition, the Bureau helps to implement federally required programs and ensure compliance with federal ambient air quality standards.

Corporate Affairs Bureau

The Corporate Affairs Bureau provides legal and support services to a broad range of Department programs and functions, such as:

  • Contracts and fiscal matters
  • Operations
  • Court of Claims litigation
  • Public Affairs and Education
  • Copyright and trademark
  • Human resources, personnel and ethics
  • Real property acquisitions and land use agreements
  • Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) services
  • Records management, storage and retrieval

Energy and Permits Bureau

The Energy and Permits Bureau provides legal support for the Department's programs that:

  • Site and/or regulate natural gas, electric transmission, electric generation and generating facilities
  • Promote energy efficiency and long-term energy planning
  • Address climate change impacts and reduce greenhouse gases
  • Advance sustainability, smart growth, and green buildings initiatives

The Bureau also assesses the consequences of growth, development, energy efficiency and energy siting as part of reviews required by the State Environmental Quality Review Act and Uniform Procedures Act.

Materials Management Bureau

The Materials Management Bureau provides legal support, including enforcement, to the Department's programs that regulate:

  • Recycling, reduction, reuse and disposal of solid waste
  • Solid waste management facilities
  • Generation, storage, transfer, and disposal of hazardous waste
  • Hazardous waste transfer, storage and disposal facilities
  • Distribution, sale, use and transportation of pesticides
  • Development, production, and utilization of natural resources of oil and gas
  • Mining operations and land reclamation

In addition to the state-implemented programs, the Bureau helps to implement federally delegated programs under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, which is accomplished through permitting and enforcement.

Natural Resources / Criminal Enforcement Bureau

The Natural Resources / Criminal Enforcement Bureau provides legal services for Department programs related to:

  • Management of State lands and forests, such as the Adirondack and Catskill Forest, reforestation areas, wildlife management areas, and unique areas
  • Fish, wildlife and marine resources, including: threatened and endangered species; sport and commercial fishing; hunting; trapping; freshwater and tidal wetlands; and wild, scenic and recreational rivers

The Bureau also provides legal advice and assistance for the Department's law enforcement and forest protection divisions and for emergency response coordination.

Remediation and Revitalization Bureau

The Remediation and Revitalization Bureau provides legal advice and assistance to the Department's environmental remediation programs, including:

  • Brownfield cleanup
  • Voluntary cleanup
  • Environmental restoration
  • Inactive hazardous waste disposal site remediation (State Superfund)
  • Brownfield Opportunity Area
  • Petroleum bulk storage program
  • Hazardous substance bulk storage program
  • Spills program
  • Major oil storage facility program

The Bureau negotiates Consent Orders and Brownfield Cleanup Agreements to ensure cleanup of contaminated sites and payment of state costs incurred at those sites. The Bureau also provides legal support to the Department's statewide NRD program. Bureau attorneys screen, develop and pursue cases in conjunction with NRD staff in the Bureau of Ecosystem Health (Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources) and the Economics Unit within OGC.

In addition, the Bureau negotiates the terms of settlements and aids in the design and implementation of restoration projects. The Bureau also provides legal assistance, outreach and enforcement for Department programs that prevent and clean up petroleum and hazardous substances spills. The Bureau responds to inquiries from the public concerning spills and compliance with legal requirements.

Water Bureau

The Water Bureau serves as counsel for Department programs related to water issues, including:

  • General and individual State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) permits
  • Dam safety
  • Flood protection
  • Water supply
  • Water quality standards
  • Coastal erosion management

In addition, the Bureau serves as counsel to the New York City Watershed Program and helps protect the drinking water supply for the City of New York.

Contact information:

NYS DEC Office of General Counsel
625 Broadway, 14th Floor
Albany, New York 12233-1500
Phone: (518) 402-9185
Fax: (518) 402-9018

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    Albany, NY 12233-1500
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