Shah’s Fracking Review Expected To Outlive His Tenure

Health Commissioner Nirav Shah decision to leave his post next month comes as his review of the health impacts of high-volume hydrofracking is still ongoing, with no end in sight.

Nevertheless, advocates on both sides of the controversial fracking issue expect the review to outlive Shah’s tenure at the department.

“The commissioner is taking a very thorough, scientific approach. The governor has said he’s going to make his decision based on that science and we certainly expect that work to continue,” said Conor Bambrick of Environmental Advocates of New York.

Shah began the review more than a year and a half ago after the state Department of Environmental Conservation missed multiple deadlines to set a permitting process for hydrofracking, a controversial process used to extract natural gas from below ground.

At the time, Shah said his review would be finished in a a matter of weeks.

Supporters of high-volume fracking say the delay has put New York at a disadvantage compared to other states that allow the process.

“If the state of New York couldn’t figure out that doing hydrofracking in the Marcellus Shale couldn’t be done in a safe way, in an environmentally prudent way, then it’s never going to figure it out,” said Unshackle Upstate executive director Brian Sampson.

At the same time, little light was shone on what exactly Shah would review when it comes to the health impacts of fracking. The lack of transparency bothered both the energy industry as well as environmentalists.

“The commissioner certainly had his approach. We definitely would like to see more public involvement if and when this study is completed. We still haven’t seen the results of his work and we’d like to see what the department is going to produce going forward,” Bambrick said.

The news of Shah’s resignation, due to take effect in May, came as Republican candidate for governor Rob Astorino called on the commissioner to step down in part because of the hydrofracking delay. In an online video, Astorino accused Shah of doing Governor Cuomo’s political bidding.

“The state health commissioner is doing Governor Cuomo’s political bidding in delaying a decision through his election, but isn’t the state health commissioner supposed to be the state’s chief medical officer, not a political foil for Governor Cuomo?” Astorino said.

A state official says Shah’s departure had been in the works for weeks and was unrelated to Astorino’s call that he step down. Shah, too, has insisted he was not taking directions from Cuomo when it came to the hydrofracking health review.

“He’s let me let science lead the way. He has not in any form impacted me and when I said I needed more time, he’s like, ‘okay, have more time,’” Shah said earlier this year.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City with no public schedule.

At 8:15 a.m., Rep. Carolyn Maloney is featured at a networking breakfast hosted by the Business and Labor Coalition of New York and Greater New York Chamber of Commerce, Coffee House, 6th floor, 20 West 44th St., Manhattan.

Also at 8:15 a.m., NYC Corporation Counsel Zachary Carter will discuss his plans for the Law Department, 2nd floor Event Center, New York Law School, 185 West Broadway, Manhattan.

At 8:30 a.m., NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito speaks at a public forum where street vendors will kick off their campaign to be recognized by unions and policymakers in a new economy, Murphy Institute for Labor Studies, 25 W. 43rd St., 18th Floor, Manhattan.

At 9 a.m., state Senate interns hold a model legislative session, Senate Chamber, Capitol, Albany

At 10 a.m., activists join NYC Public Advocate Letitia James and Rep. Charles Rangel to demand more affordable housing and protest developers they say take advantage of public funds and produce substandard housing conditions, while “bullying” tenants who complain; steps of City Hall, Manhattan.

At 10:15 a.m., Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, joined by her department heads and commissioners, will host a press conference to discuss her first 100 days in office, Washington Park Lakehouse, Albany.

At 11 a.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio discusses his first 100 days in office and answers questions about the city’s future during a Google hangout, watch here: https://plus.google.com/u/0/events/c6fbl9o5s05h9v8f7s07gbrclpc.

Also at 11 a.m., Rep. Chris Gibson attends a groundbreaking ceremony for the new medical pavilion at Northern Dutchess Hospital, Springbrook Avenue, Rhinebeck.

At noon, AG Eric Schneiderman makes an announcement with Rep. Dan Maffei, Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner and Sen. David Valesky, Syracuse City Hall.

233 East Washington Street, Syracuse.

At 12:30 p.m., LG Bob Duffy attends a groundbreaking ceremony for RIT’s Clinical Health Sciences Center, Louise Slaughter Hall, RIT, 111 Lomb Memorial Dr., Rochester.

At 1 p.m., the New York Crime Victims Task Force holds a memorial for crime victims, behind the Legislative Office Building, Albany.

At 4:15 p.m., President Obama is scheduled to speak at the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network convention, Manhattan.

Headlines…

In taking up where the Moreland Commission left off, US Attorney Preet Bharara didn’t rule out looking into reports that Gov. Andrew Cuomo unduly influenced the commission’s work.

In a rare moment of public rebuke of the governor, Bharara said: “If you begin investigations and you begin them with great fanfare, you don’t, I think, unceremoniously take them off the table without causing questions to be asked.”

Cuomo defended his closing of the commission by saying it was always intended to be a short-term endeavor and he did not intend to create a “a perpetual bureaucracy” to investigate corruption in the Legislature.

Moreland Commission co-chairman Bill Fitzpatrick, Onondaga County district attorney: “Would I like to continue? Yeah, but it’s not my choice, it’s the governors choice. That’s his decision and I respect the governor.”

The New York Times accuses the governor of breaking his word to New Yorkers by pulling the plug on the commission, saying: “We’re still waiting for a government we can trust, but Mr. Cuomo has moved on.”

Seeking to recapture the energy that propelled him to victory last November, NYC Bill de Blasio marked his 100th day in office with a rhetoric-heavy speech that called on his supporters to help him create a “people-powered government.”

More >

Panel Considering Regional Locations For Bills’ Future Home

The future of the Bills in Western New York has been the top concern of just about everyone in Buffalo since longtime owner Ralph Wilson, Jr. passed away last month.  While local politicians and business leaders feverishly search for scenarios that would keep the team from leaving town, the possibility of a much shorter move was raised Thursday.

“We’re looking at Niagara County,” Lt. Governor Bob Duffy told the Associated Press.

Duffy is the co-chair of the New Stadium Working Group.  It’s a panel appointed by Governor Cuomo, Erie County and the Bills, tasked with exploring if a new stadium is needed.

“It’s very early days for this process and at this point I think it would be crazy to say everything wasn’t on the table,” said Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster.

Dyster, who’s also a member of the panel, told Time Warner Cable News Reporter Ryan Whalen Thursday, a potential relocation to Niagara County was discussed at the group’s first meeting last week.  Dyster believes the option would make it easier for Canadian fans to attend games.

“There’s no disputing the fact that southern Ontario is an important base of support for the Buffalo Bills franchise.  The Bills have made that very clear.  I think it’s been published report that 18-percent of current season ticket holders are from Ontario,” Dyster said.

Duffy told the AP other sites like Batavia in Genesee County are also being considered.  The search for locations outside of Erie County seems to go beyond the panel’s initial directive.

“It does specify that the group is to look at either the renovation of the existing stadium or construction of a new stadium on the land currently occupied by the existing stadium or elsewhere in Erie County.  But it’s also the case the Lieutenant Governor who’s one of the co-chairs made clear at our first meeting that from his and presumably the state’s perspective, it’s important to look at all the various options,” Dyster said. 

Dyster is the only elected official from Niagara County on the committee but he isn’t feeling pressure to advocate for the region.

“I’ve said it before.  I’ll say it again.  If we manage to keep the Bills here in Western New York long-term then all the communities of Western New York are going to be winners.  If we lose the team, we’re all losers.  So I think this is a real test of our ability to pull together,” said Dyster.

The Bills signed a new stadium lease with Erie County to continue playing home games in Orchard Park last year.  Under the 10-year agreement, any new owner of the Bills would be unable to move the team until after the 2019 season.

Last week the Bills announced temporary ownership of the team had been transferred to Wilson’s Widow Mary.  The move appears to provide more time for local officials and NFL to find an owner or an ownership group interested in keeping the team in Western New York.

For Dyster, the top priority is too quickly figure the costs associated with a move or a retrofit of the current stadium.

“We know, presumably that for somebody to come forward and make that type of commitment they have to know that the team is going to be financially viable long-term and what type of stadium the Bills are playing in, where it’s located and other details of that sort,” Dyster added.

 

Extras

Stephen Colbert will be taking over “The Late Show” when David Letterman departs.

Colbert currently films in New York, but it’s unclear if that will continue.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo implied his health commissioner, Nirav Shah, is departing for a West Coast job because his New York gig didn’t pay enough.

Shah told DOH employees his last day will be May 4, though the DOH said he would be sticking around through June.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s first 100 days speech touted his accomplishments and gave hints of what’s to come.

Members of a new Bills stadium task force have mentioned Niagara Falls as a possible location.

A woman was taken into custody after throwing what she described as a shoe at Hillary Clinton during a Las Vegas speech.

De Blasio has offered public support to the Rev. Al Sharpton in the wake of the FBI informant uproar; Cuomo has not.

Following the governor’s second booze summit, the state Liquor Authority has moved to ease regulations for beverage producers.

Sen. Chuck Schumer says the FDA is going to crack down on honey laundering. (Yes, you read that right).

CSEA and Cuomo have a rare moment of agreement on the governor’s effort to cap the executive compensation paid to the heads of non profit  organizations funded by the state.

A new coalition of pro-Scaffold Law advocates say they want to not only maintain the provision but to enhance its worker protections.

The NYC CFB fined former mayoral candidate John Catsimatidis $11,473 for not accurately reporting his mailers opposing City Councilman Eric Ulrich.

The consulting firm that Eliot Spitzer paid about $1 million during his failed NYC comptroller bid last year, is now spearheading Pastor Mike Walrond’s campaign against Rep. Charlie Rangel.

Cuomo’s campaign made a major ad buy with Jewish newspapers to wish readers a happy Passover.

Sen. Greg Ball reportedly will be challenging Putnam County Executive Mary Ellen Odell in a primary. (Subscription required; Balls says he will make a decision on his next political move in mid-May).

NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray would like to see her husband in City Hall for “ast least eight years.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Dan Maffei plan to tour a Manlius company tomorrow with Fred P. Hochberg, chairman and president of the Export-Import Bank of the United States.

Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani implied he was involved back in his US attorney days in wiring the Rev. Al Sharpton when he was an FBI informant.

Astorino: Investigate Silver

Republican candidate for governor Rob Astorino in an online video Thursday reignited a GOP-backed call for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

At issue for Astorino is the series of sexually harassment scandals that have plagued the state Assembly under Silver’s leadership.

In the video, Astorino says the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption was “doomed” from the start because it wasn’t going to investigate Silver’s handling of the harassment cases.

“The Silver ‘story’ has supposedly moved on. But it remains a cancer eating at the soul of New York,” Astorino said. “Until a special prosecutor is appointed to investigate Sheldon Silver’s action, Albany will remain unethical to its core.”

Silver and his office came under criticism for approving more than $100,000 in confidential settlement money to women who were sexually harassed by Assemblyman Vito Lopez. Silver has apologized for his handling of the case, but says no laws were broken by him or his office.

Astorino to Cuomo: Clean Up Albany; Appoint a Special Prosecutor to Investigate Silver from Rob Astorino on Vimeo.

Cuomo: Keep Colbert In New York

As Stephen Colbert is poised to take over CBS’ “Late Show” following the retirement of David Letterman, Gov. Anderew Cuomo in a statement implored the head of the network to keep the program in New York City.

“With East Coast based host Stephen Colbert taking the reins of the “Late Show,” it’s clear we should keep the show where it belongs – here in New York,” Cuomo said in a statement. “I am calling CBS President and Chief Executive Officer Les Moonves and urging that CBS continue the “Late Show’s” history of filming in New York’s own legendary Ed Sullivan Theater. Our state is a top destination for entertainment businesses to thrive and grow, creating jobs and economic opportunities for communities across the State, and late night programs are a major part of that success. We must ensure that the “Late Show’s” long and proud history of making the nation laugh from New York continues for years to come.”

Cuomo last year proposed an expansion of the state’s film-tax credit, which the Legislature approved. At the same time, the spending plan proposed a tax credit aimed at bringing The Tonight Show franchise back to New York City under the new host, Jimmy Fallon.

The credit provides a 30 percent tax break to “a television production that is a talk or variety program” that moves to New York.

Ball: Municipal ID Confirms ‘Worst Fears’

County Sen. Greg Ball, the chairman of the Senate Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs Committee, against a New York City municipal identification card — a proposal that is backed by Mayor Bill de Blasio.

In a statement, Ball called the proposal a “homeland security nightmare” that should be blocked.

“As the details on the Mayor’s plan becomes clear, our worst fears have been confirmed,” Ball said in a statement. “Without requiring fingerprints, or other proper security checks, this will create a homeland security nightmare for law enforcement and the vulnerable civilian population of New York City and beyond.”

The ID is aimed in part to help immigrants, the homeless or the elderly who may difficult obtaining a government-issued driver’s license. Doing so would help them open bank accounts or enter areas where identification is required.

Supporters of a municipal ID for the city also argue that it would be easier for those who carry them to establish identity when dealing with law enforcement and foster greater interactivity with the city government.

Such identification cards also allow individuals to establish identity when interacting with law enforcement, preventing unnecessary detention. In addition, the cards benefit the city itself, fostering greater connectivity to important urban institutions, providing access to vital locations where photo ID is required, and creating a sense of unity within or identification with the city.

Nevertheless, the ID card issue is a politically sensitive one. In 2007, then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer proposed identification for undocumented immigrants that was broadly unpopular statewide and created some complications for Hillary Clinton on the presidential campaign trail.

DiNapoli’s 2013 Income Included Stock Sales

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli earned $161,476 in 2013, with his income augmented modestly by the sale of Verizon stock, according to his income tax records made public on Thursday.

DiNapoli, a Democrat who lives on Long Island, earned $152,567 from his post as state comptroller.

He earned $5,342 in dividends from stock, including AT&T, American Funds, Comcast, Verizon and Vodafone.

DiNapoli unloaded some of his Verizon stock last year, which netted him $3,246.

He paid $28,416 in total federal taxes when taking into consideration his $5,573 federal refund.

His state tax bill was $9,738, and he owed $21 at tax time.

DiNapoli also received $8 from a class-action lawsuit settlement involving American Express.

As usual, DiNapoli contributed thousands to charitable organizations, including $1,645 to St. Aloysius Church.

Moreland Commission Says Referrals To Law Enforcement Have Been Made

The co-chairman of the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption in a letter to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara write that “several referrals” have been made to federal and state law enforcement based off its work.

In the letter, commission co-chairman Milton Williams and William Fitzpatrick note that Bharara is correct in his assessment earlier this month that some investigations the panel conducted “overlap considerably” with his office.

“As the co-chairpersons of the Commission, we have decided that referrals to law enforcement shall be made only upon unanimous vote of the co-chairs,” Fitzpatrick and Williams wrote. “In light of the facts discussed above, and consistent with the Executive Order, we have agreed to provide your office with copies of all documents in the Commission’s control relating to the Commission’s ongoing investigative work.”

This lines up with Fitzpatrick, the Onondaga County district attorney, declaring in a radio interview last year that the commission had turned up potential corruption that it would refer to law enforcement.

Bharara has questioned in two letters whether the commission was ending its work prematurely following a state budget agreement that included the passage of the Public Trust Act, a package of anti-bribery and anti-fraud measures as well as independent oversight at the state Board of Elections when it comes to campaign finance violations.

Cuomo insisted on Thursday the commission did what it was designed to do: Investigate the Legislature and find a way to have lawmakers agree to new reform measures.

But questions remain on the scope of Cuomo’s office’s involvement in the commission’s direction of subpoenas themselves; Bharara in a radio interview did not rule out an investigation of the governor’s office.

SDNY 4_10_14 by Nick Reisman

Cuomo: Moreland Was Never Meant To Be Permanent

Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushed back on Thursday against concerns raised by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara that he “bargained away” the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption in favor of an agreement on ethics legislation in the state budget.

Cuomo, speaking with reporters in Irondequoit, said the panel itself was created in order to get an agreement on anti-corruption charges.

“It was a temporary commission,” Cuomo said in a question-and-answer session. “I was not creating a perpetual bureaucracy.”

Bharara in a letter to the commission suggested the disbanding of the panel charged with investigating wrongdoing in the state Assembly and Senate was ending its work prematurely.

However, the governor pointed out the commission had indeed been created in response to a lack of legislative progress on ethics.

Cuomo, indeed, had been threatening lawmakers with an investigate Moreland Commission as far back as 2011, his first year in office.

Creation of the commission that year was averted when Cuomo and state lawmakers agreed to an ethics package that included the newest incarnation of an ethics enforcement agency known as the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, as well as the requirement that elected officials reveal more information on their outside income.

In 2013, lawmakers and Cuomo did not agree to a package of anti-corruption measures following a spate of arrests in the Legislature.

Cuomo went forward with the commission’s creation that July, appointing district attorneys and legal officials with the blessing of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Lawmakers pushed back against the commission’s authority to investigate the Assembly and Senate by challenging it in state court.

But in the end, a budget agreement included new measures aimed at curbing bribery and defrauding the government, though good-government advocates remain displeased it does not include a broader, statewide public financing system.

“I don’t believe we needed another bureaucracy for enforcement,” Cuomo said. “We needed laws changed and that’s what Moreland was about.”

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