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Dr. Nirav Shah, New York State Health Commissioner. Photo: NYS DOH
Dr. Nirav Shah, New York State Health Commissioner. Photo: NYS DOH

NY health chief resignation leaves fracking review in limbo

There's "Help Wanted" at the state Department of Health with the resignation yesterday of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's appointed Commissioner, Dr. Nirav Shah.

Salary issues were the reason for his departure, according to Gov. Cuomo as reported by the Democrat and Chronicle newspaper in Rochester.

His resignation leaves the future of the Health Department's much-anticipated health review of hydraulic fracturing in New York in limbo.

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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," said Gill, "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. 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.

John Armstrong spokesperson for the anti-fracking group Frack Action says Shah's resignation won't change his group's message:

"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. The science on fracking is clear 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."

Armstrong says it is the job and responsibility of state government to protect the health, water and well-being of New Yorkers and therefore 'fracking' must be banned.

The Oil and Gas Association's Brad Gill says the final decision on hydrofracking will be a political one and he doesn't expect it until after the November elections.

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