VIEW: Documents show fracking leaders met with Cuomo’s political advisers

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Thousands of pages of former state Health Commissioner Nirav Shah’s schedules show the leaders of New York’s hydraulic fracturing review met with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s political advisers twice last year.

ShahCuomoAPBut the schedules show little else; they were heavily redacted by the Department of Health, despite criticism from the state’s leading open government expert.

More from this weekend’s Gannett newspapers:

Twice last year, Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens, then-Health Commissioner Nirav Shah and Cuomo’s top aides huddled with Phil Singer and Peter Kauffmann, senior advisers to Cuomo’s successful 2010 campaign who now work for the state Democratic Committee.

The two January 2013 meetings were held during a tense time in the state’s fracking debate. One came as a public-comment period on proposed shale-gas drilling rules drew to a close; the other came the same day reports surfaced about an internal state analysis suggesting fracking could be done safely.

Both proponents and critics of fracking have long accused Cuomo of politicizing the decision-making process, though the governor has denied that politics are at play. Cuomo, Martens and Shah are currently facing two lawsuits from fracking boosters that claim a decision on shale-gas drilling in New York has been delayed for political reasons.

The record of the two meetings in question can be found here. (Shah stepped down as health commissioner earlier this month.)

Gannett’s Albany Bureau first filed a Freedom of Information Law request for Shah’s schedules back in July. In March, the Department of Health provided 2,000 pages of documents detailing Shah’s daily meetings.

But those documents were heavily redacted, with the subject and location of the meetings — and, at times, who attended — routinely blacked out. In April, the agency rejected Gannett’s appeal to have the redaction information restored, arguing that revealing the location of the past meetings could jeopardize Shah’s safety.

Here are the schedules as provided by the Department of Health:

Released March 12 2014 by Jon Campbell

Released March 17, 2014 by Jon Campbell

(AP file photo)

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11 Comments

  1. The Biggest Loser on

    More evidence that Cuomo is a liar. If it’s about science, why are there meetings between DOH, DEC, and his political advisors? And the redactions only show he was lying when he promised an open and transparent administration. We cannot afford having him in office any longer – can he be impeached? Astorino may not win, but I hope that he can bloody King Andrew the Ditherer enough to make him realize he has no chance at POTUS.

  2. Cuomo is ready to pass drilling… His advisors have told him that with all the antidotal evidence that the landowners are right, drilling can be done safely and that those against drilling are in the super minority

  3. Hugh Kimball on

    If the decision is to be based on science, why were Martens and Shah meeting with Cuomo’s political advisers more than a year ago? And why is whatever the DEC wrote as an added health section of the SGEIS still kept from the public as is the nature of Dr. Shah’s DOH review of that document? Whether you are pro-frilling or anti, the secrecy is alarming and wrong.

    In my opinion, the longer the SGEIS process has gone on, the more evidence from studies as well as events from all over the country show that fracking is not being done safely either regarding pollution of air, water, and ground nor from the standpoint of additional greenhouse gasses being released into the atmosphere.

    Regardless of our opinions on fracking, we should all be concerned that the two lead state scientists were meeting with political advisers. Could this mean that the decision, whatever it is, has already been reached and that politics, not science, will decide when the decision is announced and when the information gathered will be released?

  4. Joanne Corey on

    There have been a lot of peer-reviewed scientific studies published in the last year and a half. You can read a number of them here: http://www.psehealthyenergy.org/LIBRARY
    These studies clearly raise concerns about the impact of shale oil/gas on public health, the environment, and climate. Therefore, it is entirely fitting for the DOH to be continuing its research into the health impacts of HVHF. I don’t know if the DEC is continuing to update the draft SGEIS in response to new scientific insights, but they should be.

    I also don’t know if politics was behind the delay in issuing the final SGEIS or not. What I do know is that, in light of the emerging science and action being taken to enact moratoria and bans and to tighten regulations in other states, including long-time oil and gas states like Texas and Colorado, it is a good thing that New York did not adopt the proposed regulations which expired in Feb. 2013. It was foolish of the DEC to put out proposed regulations when no updated EIS was in place and no final decision on whether or not to drill had been issued; it resulted in proposed regulations that were not anywhere near the “strictest in the nation,” as they were being characterized. It’s no wonder they were buried in comments and concerns, which resulted in their expiration.

  5. Dr. Shah meeting with Cuomo’s other staff is a daily routine, not a conspiracy.

    And the timing is closer to the Gov’s State of the State than anything.

    DOH covers Medicaid, Healthcare, Obamacare, Disaster Medical Relief, Hospitals, Nursing Homes, and the list goes on. Such meetings only prove that politics can NEVER be removed from policy, no matter what the subject matter.

  6. Patricia Goldsmith on

    I can only hope that the governor realizes that the evidence against fracking is mounting. If it’s safe, why did the industry spend millions to exempt itself from the Clean Air, Clean Water, Safe Drinking Water, and Community Preparedness and Right to Know Acts? These are the venerable federal laws that have saved lives and protected our health for decades, but not when it comes to fracking. If it’s safe, why can’t we know what’s in fracking fluid? If it’s safe, why did the CEO of Exxon-Mobil, Rex Tillerson, join a class action suit to keep fracking related activity away from his horse ranch? If it’s safe, why have studies shown that drilling waste wells causes earthquake clusters? How can it be safe when these deep shale plays are radioactive? How can it be safe when all cement plugs will eventually deteriorate, with some failing almost immediately? And how can it make sense economically when so many plays are failing to meet expected yields, with California’s Monterey formation’s expected yield recently downgraded by a whopping 96% ? Governor Cuomo, it’s time. Ban fracking permanently in New York.

  7. The Biggest Loser on

    How many times must that lie be perpetuated, Patricia? You know the real issue, and it had nothing to do with fracking – he didn’t want a water tower in his neighborhood. Do your lies and half-truths know no end? THERE IS NO HALLIBURTON LOOPHOLE. California’s Monterey formation is an OIL formation, not a gas formation, you fracking loser. Get your facts straight and quit being a shill for the Park Foundation.

  8. Over the last year of the review, a huge new body of sciences has emerged, and is emerging which shows that fracking cannot be done safely, and is a tremendous harm to human health where it is taking place. We will hold Gov Cuomo to his word to make the decision based on the science on this issue.

  9. Hugh Kimball on

    Even if we don’t call it a Hallisbuton Loophole, there are exemptions from both the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act which do apply to other industries. The petroleum industry was granted those exemptions in 2005.

  10. August Braun on

    The “Halliburton Loophole” is a lie and fantasy. Even the chief fractivist from Cornell, Anthony Ingraffea, says so himself – http://www.tubechop.com/watch/706437 The lies and propaganda being used by rich and powerful forces in NY are mounting and a lot of people know it.

  11. It is disturbing to know that these meetings were secret and their contents weren’t made public. What are they hiding? And why?