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Influential Assemblyman Gottfried questions fracking health report

New York state Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, the powerful Democrat who chairs the Health Committee, says he has questions about the state's health impact study as Governor Andrew Cuomo decides on the future of hydrofracking. Gottfried spoke on WAMC's Capitol Connection program.

"I’m concerned that what Commissioner Shah was asked to do by the Environmental Conservation Commissioner was a lot less than we might think," he said. "He is not, and the panel of experts he has assembled, were not asked to do a study, they were not asked to gather evidence, they were asked to do an assessment of the data and the mitigation proposals and whatnot, that the Environmental Conservation Department has put together.

"The contract between the Health Department and their panel of experts pays them for about 25 hours of work, each of them. There are three experts. That’s not a lot, and their report is not going to come out until, it sounds like, days or hours before EnCon announces its decision on its regulations. So we’re not going to have an opportunity to comment on the regulations after we have seen the report, because the comment period is over. We’re not going to have an opportunity much to comment on the report before the scheduled plan for putting out the regulations. So I think New Yorkers are getting squeezed out here."

Host Alan Chartock then asked, "Do you think the fix is in?"

"Well, we don’t know," Gottfried answered. "It is certainly entirely possible that the administration has made a decision to go forward with fracking, and that’s the mechanism we’re seeing played out here. Of course, it’s also popular [possible] that they have a different plan in mind, and maybe those of us who are concerned will be happy. But that’s a very big if."

Dr. Alan Chartock is professor emeritus at the University at Albany. He hosts the weekly Capitol Connection series, heard on public radio stations around New York. The program, for almost 12 years, highlighted interviews with Governor Mario Cuomo and now continues with conversations with state political leaders. Dr. Chartock also appears each week on The Media Project and The Roundtable and offers commentary on Morning Edition, weekdays at 7:40 a.m.
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