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Shah’s resignation no surprise, say both sides of fracking debate

There’s a ‘Help Wanted’ sign at the state Department of Health after Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah announced his resignation effective end of June.

The Commissioner is unlikely to see out the release of the long-awaited health review on the impact of hydraulic fracturing he was commissioned to produce by Governor Cuomo in November 2012.

Salary issues were the reason for his departure according to Governor Cuomo in reported comments made during meeting with the editorial staff of the Democrat and Chronicle newspaper in Rochester on Thursday.

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 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 6 years of waiting he’s learned to be patient.

He says the final decision will have to be a political one regardless of any health report, and he doesn’t expect one until after the November elections.

“I really don’t think it is much of a sign, I wish it were but I as always and for years in this industry of course, been saying that New York just needs to follow the lead of other state who have embraced this and certainly are benefiting from it.”

Anti-fracking group, FrackAction spokesperson John Armstrong says the resignation has no effect on their message.

“For us the main point to know is the fracking is, the science on fracking is clear. Ultimately we’ve seen this from science 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 and the only reasonable conclusion to come to from the science is that fracking must be banned.”

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.

Armstrong says he accepts Governor Cuomo’s explanation that salary limits led to the resignation, but adds doctors have a sacred role in society and the next commissioner should remember that promise to first do no harm.

“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.”

Current Deputy Commissioner Dr Howard Zucker will step into Dr Shah’s role on an interim basis.