6:54am

Fri April 11, 2014
Environment

Shah’s resignation no surprise, say both sides of fracking debate

There’s a "Help Wanted" sign at the state Department of Health after Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah announced his resignation effective at end of June.

The commissioner is unlikely to see out the release of a long-awaited health review on the impact of hydrofracking that he was commissioned to produce by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in November 2012.

According to Cuomo, salary issues were the reason for his departure, in reported comments made during a meeting with the editorial staff of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle Thursday.

Brad Gill, executive director of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York says the news came as no surprise to him.

“My opinion is that it’s not going to change a whole lot as far as the timing of a decision by the governor here in New York," Gill said. "I don’t think it either sets or re-sets the clock and creates more of a delay, nor do I think it’s going to expedite anything.”

Gill adds that while the organization has no official position on Dr. Shah’s resignation, after six years of waiting he’s learned to be patient.

He says the final decision will have to be a political one regardless of any health report, and he doesn’t expect one until after the November elections.

“I really don’t think it is much of a sign," Gill explained. "I wish it were, but I as always and for years in this industry of course, [have] been saying that New York just needs to follow the lead of other states who have embraced this and certainly are benefiting from it.”

Anti-fracking group Frack Action spokesman John Armstrong says the resignation has no effect on their message.

“The science on fracking is clear," Armstrong said. "Ultimately we’ve seen this from science from all parts of the country, and where fracking is already happening in other parts of the country, that fracking contaminates the water, it pollutes the air, it makes people sick and the only reasonable conclusion to come to from the science is that fracking must be banned."

Armstrong says he also accepts Cuomo’s explanation that salary limits led to the resignation, but adds that doctors have a special role in society and the next commissioner should remember the promise to first do no harm.

“Whoever is in that position obviously has to follow that oath and has to take that sacred responsibility very seriously and that comes down to listening to the science,” Armstrong said.

Current Deputy Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker will step into Shah’s role on an interim basis.

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