Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday criticized the strategy employed by groups who favor hydraulic fracturing, saying their lobbyists should spend more time educating the public and less time focused on “hallway chatter.”
In an interview with Gannett’s Albany Bureau, Cuomo reiterated his position that an ultimate decision on whether to allow large-scale fracking in New York will be based on “facts and science.” But he suggested the pro-fracking groups aren’t using their time wisely as the state’s de facto moratorium on shale-gas drilling stretches beyond 4 1/2 years.
“I think the landowners’ consultants and the lobbyists for the pro-fracking groups would be better advised to spend their time actually getting out information to allay the fears of the people of this state than worrying about hallway chatter,” Cuomo said. “Their job is to communicate to the people of the state, to say that this is a safe process, to be open and available. And that’s what they should be doing.”
Cuomo’s decision-making process on hydrofracking has been in the spotlight over the past few weeks, with recent reports suggesting he may have been influenced by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. — his former brother-in-law — to hold off on allowing the natural-gas extraction process to proceed. Cuomo has acknowledged he discussed the issue with Kennedy, but denied that the discussions led him to put off a decision.
The governor’s comments came following a meeting of his cabinet Monday, where state Health Commissioner Nirav Shah said the department’s review of fracking’s potential impacts should be completed in “the next few weeks.” Shah had also signaled in February that his review would be forthcoming in weeks.
“We’ve been working with our experts very closely, going back and forth,” Shah said. “I anticipate we’ll be done in the next few weeks. There’s no real timetable. We are learning more information as we go and we want to make sure we cover all the ground and not rush through this.”
Meanwhile, high-volume fracking in gas-rich formations like the Marcellus Shale in the Southern Tier remains on hold until Shah’s review is complete and incorporated into permitting guidelines from the Department of Environmental Conservation.
“It’s relatively simple at the end of the day,” Cuomo told Gannett. “The Health Commissioner is going to give his opinion after reviewing the facts. We’re not going to do it without him reviewing it. It’s that simple and it’s that obvious, frankly.”
(AP file photo)