State Health Commissioner Nirav Shah testified today that he’s “not in a hurry” to finish his 16-month review of whether hydrofracking could be performed safely in New York, saying he will continue his lengthy study until he comes to a clear determination.
“When we started, we were optimistic,” Shah told lawmakers of his review that started in September 2012. “We thought we that we could be finished with this review very quickly. As we have taken time to understand what is going on, there is a lot more out there, and I am in no hurry to play with any potential risks with the health and safety of New Yorkers.”
Shah has been criticized for the extended review and the secrecy around it. He has refused to discuss details about what he’s been doing, and Gannett’s Albany Bureau reported today that Shah won’t release his public schedules.
Shah offered few new specifics today, but said he’s in no rush to get the work finished.
“I’m not in a hurry to finish this research review. When I’m ready, that’s the extent of my plans,” Shah said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has maintained the state’s de facto moratorium on fracking until Shah’s review is complete, and state DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens said last week that it’s unlikely his office would issue any drilling permits until after April 2015.
“This is a highly emotionally charged area, and to the extent that we want to be objective and scientific and stick to the facts, we are continuing our work as needed, reaching out to whoever I need to reach out to,” Shah said.
Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, D-Suffern, Rockland County, asked Shah why the review isn’t more public, saying it should be.
Shah said there’s a need for “transparency at a certain point” on fracking review, adding, “afterwards, absolutely.”