Sununu DES Pick Questioned On Background

Apr 13, 2017

Credit josh rogers/nhpr

Peter Kujawski, Governor Sununu's pick to be the state’s top environmental regulator, faced questions about his background during his confirmation hearing Wednesday.  

Kujawski, a retired Army Colonel with an MBA who held executive jobs at glass manufacturer View Inc, gun maker Sig Sauer, and Nanocomp, has a thin resume when it comes to environmental regulation.

But the Bedford businessman and former Eagle Scout he said he’d use technology,  hard work and a “lead from the front” management style to make New Hampshire’s Department of Environmental Services “the best environmental protector in the nation.”

“I look at my role as an obstacle remover, a speed bump remover, and getting the job done,” he told the Executive Council.

Kujawski’s approach and background appear to have made him an appealing hire for Governor Sununu.

If confirmed, Kujawski would be the lead manager and protector of the state's air, land and water resources. He’d also oversee 400 employees and a $200 million dollar budget.

But according to Kujawski, DES commissioner was just one of several jobs the Governor dangled when Kujawski offered his services.

"DES was at the top of the list, labor was next, there was some discussion of DRED, and very little discussion of DCYF,” Kujawski told the Council.

When Councilor Andru Volinsky asked him to clarify, Kujawski said that the jobs Sununu pitched weren’t limited to state agencies.

“Not only that,” Kujawski said, “the Governor unselfishly offered me a position as a vice-president of a company that's moving to New Hampshire.”

Sununu spokesman David Abrams later said Kujawski “misspoke” about the job offer at a private company. 

Abrams characterized Kujawski’s contact with the governor as “several broad discussions" about where Kujawski’s talents might best be utilized and “ultimately, the Governor decided that Mr. Kujawski’s skills best serve the Department of Environmental Services.”

Kujawski isn’t known to the state’s environmental community, but during the hearing he flashed a stack of business cards he said he collected when he met this week with state environmental groups.  He said he planned to rely on his new contacts for advice.

Kujawski may need it. He told the council he hadn’t given much thought to some major environmental issues.

Kujawski said he believes climate change is man-made but offered few specifics when asked how the state might address it.  He also said he lives in a part of Bedford affected by PFOA water contamination but knows few “data points” on the issue.

When Councilor Chris Pappas asked him about the Northern Pass project, noting that Kujawski told him in a prior conversation that he supports it, Kujawski backed away, “I would say my comments to you then were more off-the-cuff than rooted in deep technology, science or thought.”

No one testified against Kujawski at his confirmation and he was strongly backed at the meeting by several former top state officials.  

Ken Clark, who retired as the state’s adjutant general in 2009, predicted no one will outwork Kujawski and that DES workers will be challenged to keep up.

George Bald, who led the Department of Resources and Economic development for more than a decade, predicted Kujawski will learn on the job and told councilors they wouldn’t regret confirming him because he’s “the type of person who can take an organization and make it better.”  

The council hasn’t set a date for a vote on Kujawski’s confirmation.