“ALBANY — Democratic gubernatorial front-runner Eliot Spitzer outlined an environmental policy Wednesday focusing on renewable energy, cleaning the Hudson River and beefing up staffing at the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Speaking to a friendly audience of about 200 people at WAMC’s Linda Norris Auditorium, Spitzer railed against President Bush, whose policies have angered many environmentalists.

The state attorney general called Bush “hands down the worst president on environmental and energy issues that this country has ever seen” and said it will be increasingly up to state and local governments to safeguard their own air, water and land.

Spitzer said he has sued the Bush administration “no less than 17 times to block their attempts to dismantle our environmental protection laws.”

He called for more incentives for renewable energy such as solar, hydro and wind power, and said the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Westchester County should be closed as soon as replacement sources can be found for the 2,000 megawatts it produces.

Spitzer praised Republican Gov. George Pataki’s open space conservation efforts, which include a goal to protect 1 million wilderness acres. But, he said, more preservation needs to be done in urban and suburban areas.

Spitzer also called for “adequate” staffing at the DEC, saying that with 800 fewer employees today than in the mid-1990s, inspection and oversight jobs go unfilled.

A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday found Spitzer leading fellow Democrat Tom Suozzi, 69 percent to 14 percent among Democrats. A January Quinnipiac poll had Spitzer leading the Nassau County executive 72 percent to 8 percent.

Spitzer and Suozzi both polled ahead of the Republican hopefuls: former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld, former state Assembly Minority Leader John Faso and former state Secretary of State Randy Daniels. The poll showed Faso passing Weld, 22 percent to 16 percent, with Daniels at 8 percent.

The poll of 1,674 voters was conducted March 21-27 and has a 2 point margin of error overall, 3.7 points among Democrats and 4.2 percent among Republicans.

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