"Maybe if Governor Cuomo had been as interested in speaking with other regulators as he was in speaking with his former brother-in-law, he would have recognized that shale development can be and is being done safely, and folks struggling to find work upstate might actually have jobs," Everley said.
Dan Fitzsimmons, leader of the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York, a pro-drilling group, said opposition to hydrofracking is based on politics, not science.
"Delay, delay delay, that's been the name of the game with these folks, and the sad thing about Cuomo is that he's allowing it," Fitzsimmons said. "How long are you going to throw away taxpayer dollars over politics?"
But Adrian Kuzminski, a fracking opponent with the group Sustainable Otsego, said he fears that the test wells Cuomo has been considering would be "a stalking horse" for more drilling.
"After a couple of years they're going to say 'Oh, we don't see any problems,'" Kuzminski said. "There's no need for test wells in New York state. The information is just out there."
Shortly after the conversations with Kennedy in early February, Cuomo's health commissioner, Dr. Nirav Shah, mentioned the Geisinger study among three health reviews still pending and which could enter into Cuomo's decision. Shah, a nationally respected public health figure, was an associate investigator at the Geisinger Center for Health Research before going to work for Cuomo.
Sandra Steingraber, a biologist and founder of New Yorkers Against Fracking, said Saturday, "As Health Commissioner Shah said, the right time to study fracking is before fracking begins. We expect that Governor Cuomo will listen to scientists and medical experts and let evidence dictate whether or not to lift our state's moratorium, and we further expect that he will wait for national studies and a real New York-specific study."
Cuomo, a popular Democrat who supporters say may run for president in 2016, is getting criticism from both sides over his delayed decision and calls for more studies. Landowners and industry say they're missing out on an economic boom while environmentalists say the administration should have ordered a full health study and has been too opaque about the regulatory process.
Some pundits have questioned whether Cuomo was "becoming Hamlet on the Shale," echoing a reference to criticism of his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, who spent politically damaging months as "Hamlet on the Hudson" publicly debating whether to run for president. It's a characterization Kennedy rejects.
Many federal and state regulators say hydraulic fracturing, which injects a mix of water and chemicals thousands of feet underground to crack open shale and release natural gas, is safe when done properly and thousands of sites have few complaints of pollution. But environmental groups and some doctors say regulations still aren't stringent enough and the practice can pollute ground water. The Marcellus Shale lies under parts of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.
"What's interesting is Andrew is trying to figure this out," Kennedy said. "It's interesting to see this ... that usually doesn't happen. (Most governors) take a poll, or they take industry money and just do it ... but I think this is the harder route."
Associated Press Writer Karen Matthews contributed to this report from New York City.