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Cuomo drilling adviser Hallman resigns

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Casey Seiler, Capitol bureau chief in Timesunion.com 3/8/13

The TU’s Brian Nearing reports:

The top environmental adviser to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and a key decision maker on whether the state accepts a controversial natural gas drilling technique is stepping down after a year in the position.

Robert Hallman submitted his resignation as the $150,000-a-year deputy secretary for energy and environment effective March 1, according to the governor’s press office. Hallman’s energy responsibilities will be assumed by Richard Kauffman, who was named by Cuomo as his energy czar during the State of the State address in early January.

It was not immediately clear where Hallman’s environmental responsibilities will be directed.

The press office announcement on Friday said Hallman’s departure was amicable. Hallman’s plans are not known.

“I was surprised to learn of his departure,” said Robert Moore, executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York. “He was critical to developing Governor Cuomo’s environmental agenda.”

Hallman’s is the latest high-profile departure from the Cuomo administration. Last month, Cuomo’s director of communications, Allison Gollust, resigned after four months to join CNN. At the state Department of Environmental Conservation, recent resignations include those of Deputy Commissioner and General Counsel Steve Russo, who is returning to private law practice, and Regional Director Willie Janeway, who will lead the Adirondack Council.

Hallman, a Manhattan lawyer who was the former chairman of the environmental group New York League of Conservation Voters, could not be reached for comment. A partner with the Manhattan law firm of Cahill Gordon & Reindel, Hallman had been on the league’s board for more than a decade and was chairman the past three years.

He was also one of three conservation league members to serve on Cuomo’s transition team in 2010.In 2011, Hallman was named to a 12-member state advisory panel by DEC to study hydrofracking. Hallman had a low-profile presence as the state’s highest-ranking environmental voice, making few public speaking appearances. He was rarely seen in public after he appeared to tout Cuomo’s green agenda as part of Earth Week in April 2012.

Last month, opponents of natural gas hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking, called for the Albany County District Attorney’s Office to look into a possible conflict of interest involving Hallman.

The group, Frack Action, claimed that Hallman had failed to make “specific financial disclosures” that could raise potential conflict over his oversight of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which is studying whether the state ought to allow hydrofracking.

Hallman was a deputy commissioner and general counsel at the state Department of Environmental Conservation, was a deputy general counsel at the U.S. Department of Energy; was a deputy counsel at the New York City Environmental Protection Administration, and was a counsel for energy and environment at the state Assembly.

He was also staff attorney for the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Law and Social Policy, an energy and not-for-profit think tank funded by the Ford Foundation. He is also a member of the American Bar Association’s environmental, energy and natural resources committee, and a past member of the board of the Rainforest Alliance.

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