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March 12, 2013

Cuomo: N.Y. not waiting for fracking study in Pa.

COOPERSTOWN — Gov. Andrew Cuomo contended Monday that legislation aimed at holding up a decision to permit shale gas drilling in New York until outside studies are completed is “political” in nature and suggested his administration will reach a conclusion soon.

Referring to one fracking study being conducted in Pennsylvania and another by the Environmental Protection Agency, Cuomo said in Albany: “Nobody ever said that we were waiting for the studies to be finished.”

The governor added: “The Department of Health was going to be looking at those studies and see if there was anything constructive in those studies.”

He said it remains unclear how the unfinished research being conducted outside New York would influence the state’s review of whether to move forward with issuing fracking permits.

“Maybe they are useless, in which case they are useless,” Cuomo said. “Maybe they have some information that is instructive, in which case we will use the information.”

Joining Cuomo at the media briefing, state Health Commissioner Nirav Shah suggested that he will soon make a recommendation on whether fracking could be permitted without jeopardizing public health, regardless of the fact that studies evaluating that question are ongoing.

“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.”

Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens, whose agency would oversee the permitting process, has said the decision on when to issue permits will come after Shah shares his conclusions.

Both Martens and Shah are Cuomo appointees.

Cuomo also appeared to give advice to the gas drilling industry on how it could better market its agenda in New York, according to comments attributed to him Monday by Gannett News Service.

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