New York’s top health official Monday said his review of hydraulic fracturing will continue behind closed doors because science needs to be conducted in a “sacred place.”
Following a meeting of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s cabinet, state Health Commissioner Nirav Shah said scientific studies must be conducted in private to maintain objectivity.
“The process needs to be transparent at the end, not during,” Shah told reporters.
When asked when the public will be able to see his work, Shah said: “When I’m done.”
The state Department of Health began its own review of fracking—a technique used to help extract natural gas from underground shale formations—in September 2012, while the Department of Environmental Conservation began crafting permitting guidelines in 2008.
As far back as January, Shah had said his work would be completed within weeks. High-volume fracking remains on hold in New York until Shah’s work is finished, allowing the DEC to complete its review.
“For the last few months, I’ve said that as the science evolves, we will reflect the science in my recommendations,” Shah said. “As recently as a month ago, we got new data from Texas and Wyoming ,and until I’m comfortable with the state of the science, I’m withholding my recommendation.”
Cuomo said that while his administration has moved quickly on other efforts, such as building a new Tappan Zee Bridge in the Hudson Valley, fracking is a complex issue.
“I want the right decision, not necessarily the fastest decision,” Cuomo said Monday. “When it’s appropriate to move fast, we can move fast. I think we’ve shown that over and over again.”
Cuomo said Monday that there is no timeline, though he “would expect” a decision before Election Day. He said he wouldn’t pressure Shah into a decision.
“But my timeline is whatever Commissioner Shah needs to do it right and feel comfortable,” Cuomo said. “It’s a major decision.”