In Fissures appear in scientists’ assurances about safety of fracking, Globe and Mail writer Mark Hume describes how industry used the work of Charles Groat, of the Energy Institute at the University of Texas, to discount concerns about the safety of fracking.
“Now a review panel appointed by the University of Texas has taken a hard look at Dr. Groat’s report, and has concluded his study “fell short of contemporary standards for scientific work.
“Not only was the work suspect, reported the panel, but Dr. Groat himself was in a troubling conflict of interest….
“In British Columbia, where the gas industry is racing to tap into vast shale deposits in the northeast, the government has been assuring first nations that fracking is not causing any environmental harm. The groundwater is safe, the government says. It is now clear there is reason to doubt that.”
StateImpact, a reporting project involving NPR, provides more detail about the science-for-hire expert who came to Vancouver to reassure British Columbians about the safety of intensive fracking in north-east energy fields.
“[Groat] sits on the board of Plains Exploration and Production Company, a Houston-based company that conducts drilling and fracking in Texas and other parts of the country. According to the new report (and a review of the company’s financial reports by Bloomberg) Groat received more than $400,000 from the drilling company last year alone, more than double his salary at the University. And one of the shales examined in Groat’s fracking study is currently being drilled by the company, the report says.
“Since 2007, …PAI says Groat’s total compensation from the company is close to $2 million.”
Postmedia gave uncritical coverage to Groat’s report favouring fracking but the “news” organization provided a clear implication that environmentalist opponents were engaging in fearmongering and speculation. Looking through the Twitter stream of Margaret Munro, National Science Writer, Postmedia News, I didn’t find any recognition that the newspapers’ reporting about Groat was mindless cheering for little-regulated polluters.
Much of the definitive reporting on fracking has been provided by ProPublica in the series: Fracking – Gas Drilling’s Environmental Threat.
Ms. Munro might be wise to spend a few days reading the more than 100 examinations offered by ProPublica.
Alternatively, she might browse through the articles at Public Accountability Initiative.
Rod Smelser tweets about another good piece at Skeptoid.com: All About Fracking.
Almost any choice would be more informative than reading (and echoing) industry press releases.
P.S. – Ms. Munro tweeted Dec 10, about 3 pm:
“Fissures appear in scientists’ assurances about safety of fracking at AAAS.”
Good start from the writer. Postmedia readers, let me know if the newspapers provide follow-up. I won’t hold my breath.