Nolin Wants To Keep Job Despite Lynch Opposition

Concord (AP) — August 16, 2006 — State Environmental Services Commissioner Michael Nolin says he is passionate about his job and can continue working well with Gov. John Lynch, even though Lynch has nominated someone to replace him.

“I have an obligation to all those people out there who support me and the three (executive) councilors who support me,” he said.

Nolin was appointed in 2003 by former Gov. Craig Benson, a Republican, but his term expired last month. Lynch, a Democrat, has nominated Thomas Burack to replace him. Burack is a Republican lawyer who specializes in environmental law and heads the state program that helps communities preserve historic buildings and open space. His nomination is on hold because the five- person executive council is split.

Lynch spokeswoman Pamela Walsh said last month the governor will not reappoint Nolin, whether or not Burack is confirmed.

“Gov. Lynch has nominated Tom Burack because he believes he is the best person for the job and because he can bring together the business and environmental communities to foster job creation while protecting what is special about New Hampshire,” Walsh said Wednesday.

But under New Hampshire’s system of government, Nolin will remain as a holdover unless or until Lynch persuades the council to approve another nominee. Nolin said Lynch has never told him directly that he would not renominate him, no matter what.

“I respect the governor and I think I work well with the governor,” Nolin said. “I think I have his support until he gets the votes to replace me.”

In the meantime, “I have to go forward every day as I do here and try to do the right job and keep the agency going,” he said.

Debora Pignatelli, the lone Democrat on the Executive Council, and Ruth Griffin support Burack. Councilors Ray Burton and Ray Wieczorek support Nolin, while Councilor Peter Spaulding remains undecided. Pignatelli said Wednesday that Lynch should have the right to appoint his own team, as long as his nominees are well-qualified – and that Burack meets the test.

She said she had received letters supporting Burack from both business and environmental groups, while only business interests have written to support Nolin. She also has gotten letters from Department of Environmental Services staff “hoping that we will have a new” commissioner, she said.

“Since I believe the commission has to walk a fine line between protecting the environment and supporting business, I think (Burack) is qualified,” she said.

Spaulding believes Nolin has “a defensible environmental record,” he said. And while he thinks Burack is “a good person,” he is concerned because Burack’s law firm represented Bio Energy LLC, which runs a power plant in Hopkinton that burns waste wood to generate steam and electricity.

Lynch and Spaulding both live in Hopkinton, where Bio Energy applied to burn construction and demolition waste. Neighbors objected, saying it could increase the plant’s lead and mercury emissions. Nolin was instrumental in blocking the permit, Spaulding said.

“I referred to Bio Energy as gangsters. They’re environmental thugs,” Spaulding said. “There’s no evidence that Burack was their attorney, but the fact he’s a member of the firm that represents them, under ethics rules he has to step back from making decisions” that could affect them. That could hinder Burack’s performance as commissioner, Spaulding said.

Mark Dell’Orfano, a spokesman for Regenisis Corp., which operates the plant, said Spaulding’s characterization of Bio Energy was outrageous and false. He also said he did not know Burack, who works at a large law firm.

“Bio Energy and Regenisis have followed all the state and federal laws in regard to environmental permitting and operating a power plant in Hopkinton,” he said. The executive council is scheduled to meet again next Wednesday, and Nolin hopes he will get the chance to stay.

“I’m a New Hampshire native who feels passionately about the environment, but I believe you can’t have a healthy environment without a strong economy, and you can’t have a strong economy without a healthy environment,” he said. [Associated Press].

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