- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 12, 2017

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Gov. Chris Sununu’s nominee to lead the Department of Environmental Services said Wednesday while he isn’t up to speed on the state’s major environmental projects, he would bring his background as a business leader to the job along with experience in hazardous materials and sustainability.

Whether Peter Kujawski, a Bedford business executive, has the qualifications to lead a department tasked with environmental protection was a focus of a public hearing before the Executive Council, which must confirm his nomination.

Kujawski admitted he is not totally knowledgeable about all of New Hampshire’s environmental regulations or programs, including the Clean Power Plan and the proposed Northern Pass transmission line project. But he said he is a competent manager with a strong track record of leading complex organizations. He also stressed his commitment to protecting New Hampshire’s environment.

“We will seek to resolve all environmental problems and challenges through technology, innovation, efficiency or hard work,” Kujawski said, describing his vision for the department.

The Department of Environmental Services is tasked with managing and protecting the state’s air, land and water resources. It has an annual budget of more than $200 million and more than 400 employees.

Kujawski is a former executive of New Hampshire-based companies Sig Sauer, the firearms manufacturer, and Nanocomp Technologies. Most recently he worked at View, Inc., which makes glass that automatically tints in the sun.

He highlighted his involvement in the Eagle Scouts, his expertise in hazardous materials and his work in sustainability as further qualifications for the job. He has a degree in chemical engineering and served as a colonel in the U.S. Army.

Prior to his nomination, Kujawski was a relative unknown in Concord’s political and environmental spheres. He said he was seeking a return to public service when he talked with Sununu last December and had discussed a variety of potential roles in the administration, including in the departments of labor or resources and economic development.

He told councilors Wednesday he met with environmental groups this week and committed to work with them. But he also said he hasn’t given much thought to how the department can work to combat climate change, which he believes exists and is man-made.

“My objective would be to make the organization the best environmental protector in the nation,” Kujawski said.

Many business leaders and former state commissioners showed up to testify in favor of Kujawski, calling him an effective leader who can get the job done. No one testified against him.

“No one will outwork him or have more energy,” said Ken Clark, the state’s former adjutant general. “There will be a rush to get running shoes at (the department) because they’ll have a hell of a time trying to keep up.”

The council hasn’t set a date for voting on Kujawski’s nomination. After the hearing, Republican Councilor Joe Kenney said he’s inclined to support Kujawski. Democratic Councilor Chris Pappas was less sure.

“He’s an outside-the-box nominee for this department. I would like to see someone with more of an environmental background who has more of a demonstrated passion for environmental issues,” Pappas said. “But I’m willing to give him a look.”

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