ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York's health commissioner said Monday he never intended to wait for completion of any of the pending gas drilling studies, which could take years, and instead plans a recommendation to the governor "in weeks" on whether the state should approve hydraulic fracturing.
Health Commissioner Nirav Shah also said he met with researchers from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania within the past two weeks.
A person close to Gov. Andrew Cuomo had told The Associated Press in February that the governor discussed the Geisinger health study as key research for his decision and helped cool momentum toward making a decision to allow a limited number of test wells that would be closely monitored. Preliminary results were expected in less than a year.
Environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who had spoken to Cuomo about the study, said in an interview that he believes the Geisinger review is pivotal.
Last week, however, Geisinger said it will take years for the results of their studies to be complete.
"Nobody ever said that we were waiting for the studies to be finished," Cuomo said Monday. "The Department of Health was going to be looking at those studies and see if there was anything constructive in those studies."
Instead, Cuomo said they would discuss early findings with some researchers.
Cuomo will make a decision on whether to allow the potentially lucrative drilling in the economically distressed Southern Tier. But he has faced increasing opposition from environmentalists who claim "fracking" will threaten public health and drinking water.
"We will call them up, look at them, talk to them and find out," Cuomo said. "Maybe they are useless, in which case they are useless. Maybe they have some information that is instructive, in which case we will use the information."