ALBANY, N.Y. — Governor Andrew Cuomo came as close as he ever has to approving fracking last month, laying out a limited drilling plan for as many as 40 gas wells before changing course to await the findings of a new study after discussions with environmentalist and former brother-in-law Robert F. Kennedy Jr., according to several people familiar with his thinking.
The turning point, which could delay a decision for up to a year or longer, came in a series of phone calls with Kennedy. The two discussed a new health study on the hydraulic fracturing drilling method that could be thorough enough to trump all others in a debate that has split New York for five years. ‘‘I think the issue suddenly got simple for him,’’ said Kennedy, who went on to paraphrase Cuomo in their discussions: ‘‘ ‘If it’s causing health problems, I really don’t want it in New York state. And if it’s not causing health problems, we should figure out a way we can do it.’ ’’