April 9, 2014 by Joseph Spector in Politics on The Hudson
The state’s Health Department commissioner is resigning at the end of June amid criticism over his drawn-out review of whether New York should move forward with hydraulic fracturing.
Nirav Shah, who was first appointed in 2011, is leaving to become chief operating officer for clinical operations for the southern California region at the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, the Health Department said in a statement.
The announcement comes on the same day that Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino called for Shah to resign, citing the ongoing fracking review and a lack of inspections in women’s health facilities.
The health department’s statement denied that Shah’s decision was sudden, saying “This move has been in the works for a number of weeks.” State officials said Shah began telling associates last night about his departure.
Howard Zucker, the agency’s first deputy commissioner will serve as interim commissioner.
New York has had a de facto ban on fracking since 2008, and Shah has been reviewing fracking since September 2012.
Supporters and critics of fracking have pressed Shah to be more transparent about his review and to conclude it, leading to lawsuits against the state by advocacy groups.
Cuomo has said any decision on fracking would be made based on the science and the state’s review.
In December, Shah defended the process, saying scientific studies must be conducted in private to maintain objectivity.
“The process needs to be transparent at the end, not during,” Shah told reporters.