NIAGARA COUNTY, N.Y. - Gov. Cuomo on Thursday demanded President Trump fire the leaders of an international environmental regulatory agency, which he partly blames for causing flooding on Lake Ontario this summer.
Cuomo made the aggressive call during a public appearance in Niagara County, where his speech focused largely on flood relief efforts, but also briefly addressed the status of the International Joint Commission (IJC). Cuomo and other elected politicians in New York, including Congressman Chris Collins, have said the IJC's new water level regulations -- known as "Plan 2014" -- played a major role in the dire situation on Lake Ontario this summer. The IJC has sharply denied these claims, pointing instead to natural factors and record-setting rainfall.
The IJC typically consists of three Canadian commissioners and three American commissioners. However, the United States has one vacancy on the commission right now, and Cuomo appeared on Thursday afternoon to call for the firing of the two current commissioners, who were both appointed by President Obama.
In his brief comments about the IJC, Cuomo also appeared to specifically reference Rich Moy, a commissioner from Helena, Mont. He did not specifically mention the second commissioner, a Michigan native and environmental expert named Lana Pollack.
"There are three federal appointees. One is vacant. One is from the great state of Montana. Montana is a beautiful state, but what you know about the Great Lakes living in Montana, I'm not exactly sure," Cuomo said. "I know they go far west, but I don't think they reach Montana. So, today, we are calling on President Trump to replace those appointees on the IJC, put appointees who know what they're talking about, who know the Great Lakes. And he can do that immediately."
Although the Great Lakes are clearly a priority for the IJC, they are not the sole focus of the agency's work or oversight. The IJC is responsible for helping regulate waterways across North America, including many on the Canadian/American border on the West Coast. Moy, the Montana native, had more than two decades of experience with international issues in that region when he was appointed by President Obama in 2011.
Pollack, who grew up on Lake Michigan and has significant experience with Great Lakes issues, was appointed in 2010 by Obama. She is the chair of the American side of the IJC.
President Trump's administration has said very little about the International Joint Commission, so it's unclear if the president has any intention of replacing the appointees from the Obama era. It is also unclear if -- or when -- he plans to fill the third vacancy on the American side of the commission.
On Friday, the International Joint Commission's media relations staff sent 2 On Your Side the following statement:
"As specified in the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty, the commission consists of six commissioners – three from the United States and three from Canada. The president nominates and, after confirmation by the Senate, appoints U.S. commissioners, like other presidential political appointees. As political appointees, the U.S. commissioners serve at the pleasure of the president. The government of Canada appoints the three Canadian commissioners. Commissioners are supported by knowledgeable staff and other experts from both nations who are well-versed on the latest science of the Great Lakes and other transboundary regions coast-to-coast so that they can make informed decisions and recommendations to the two governments."