Like many other interest groups in New York state, environmental advocates were keenly optimistic that Gov. Eliot Spitzer would push new initiatives and complete tasks that his predecessor, George Pataki, had left undone.

“We entered this year with high expectations,” said Laura Haight, senior environmental associate for New York Public Interest Research Group.

Some of those expectations have been met, said Haight and others who applauded as Spitzer assembled his environmental team, created a climate-change office and began restoring jobs at the Department of Environmental Conservation.

But environmentalists, like other groups, have faced disappointment as well. As the first-year governor’s fortunes flagged amid political imbroglios and declining public approval, some of the green agenda was set aside.

Environmentalists are perturbed that Spitzer’s DEC has not revamped regulations on hazardous waste cleanups that Pataki put into effect shortly before leaving office. Some also say that two major environmental bills died in the Legislature without enough hands-on lobbying by Spitzer.

“The differences now between the governor and the Legislature are very troubling. We were looking forward to the governor as an ally. This first legislative session has been a disappointment in that way,” Haight said.

With budget constraints looming and Spitzer at odds with many state legislators, she said: “Nobody is looking forward to next session.”

Other developments in 2007, though, were encouraging for environmentalists.

Under new DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis, the state is pressing forward with a program to limit greenhouse gas emissions and fund alternative energy projects. Agency leaders promise to step up environmental enforcement, which some say had lagged under Pataki.

Morale among DEC employees is reported to be high.

“I think the highlight of the Spitzer administration is the renewed enthusiasm of the DEC,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, which has offices across the state and in Connecticut. “The DEC has been diligently hiring for the positions that were lost in the Pataki administration. There’s a lot of outreach on the part of the DEC leadership. All of that bodes well.”

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