A local lawmaker has been tapped for a leadership role with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, officials announced Thursday.
Assemblyman Peter Lopez, R-Schoharie, has been chosen as the EPA’s new administrator for Region 2, which encompasses New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Lopez, who has spent the past decade as a state assemblyman, will oversee environmental protection efforts in those areas.
“His familiarity with the region and his experience working to solve environmental problems in New York will be invaluable in helping EPA serve Americans in the Northeast and the Caribbean,” EPA administrator Scott Pruitt said in a prepared statement.
Lopez did not respond to requests for comment on the appointment. He replaces Catherine McCabe, who was serving as acting director for Region 2.
Among his first responsibilities will be responding to the fallout of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, which devastated parts of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Residents have struggled to establish contact with loved ones and still lack necessary food, water and medical supplies.
He will likely lean on his experience aiding recovery efforts in the Capital Region from tropical storms Irene and Lee, which battered Schoharie County, in particular.
On a local level, Lopez will coordinate the agency’s response to PFOA water contamination in Hoosick Falls.
“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,” said Basil Seggos, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
Peter Baynes, executive director of the New York State Conference of Mayors, said in a prepared statement that the organization looks forward to Lopez “working collaboratively with city and village officials to protect the environment and enhance the quality of life in our communities.”
Lopez’s departure leaves a void in representation for the 102nd Assembly District, which includes Schoharie and Greene counties and parts of Albany, Columbia, Ulster, Delaware and Otsego counties. It was unclear when a new Assembly representative will be elected.