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Scientists slam US Department of Energy fracking panel conflicts of interest

August 11, 2011

On the eve of the release of the Department of Energy’s recommendations about high-volume horizontal hydrofracking, or “fracking” to extract methane from deep layers of rock a mile and more underground, twenty-eight scientists vehemently criticized the pro-industry bias of the DOE panel.  Read the full story by Bill Holland (Platts online news, August 10th) here.  Excerpts:

The 28 scientists — including Cornell University’s Robert Howarth, who published a study this spring saying that methane leaks from gas extraction and transmission made the commodity a more potent greenhouse gas threat than coal — echoed earlier arguments by environmental groups that Deutch and five of the other six members had financial ties to the energy industry and couldn’t be relied upon to make objective decisions.

“In our work,” the scientists said, “we believe in reducing individual biases in evaluating the merits of scientific of technological ideas. The current panel does not meet this standard. Six of the seven members have current financial ties to the natural gas and oil industry.”

“The committee appears to be performing advocacy-based science and seems to have already concluded hydraulic fracturing is safe,” they noted.

The scientists said that the experts EPA chose for its study were vetted to ensure those scientists had no ties to industry, “we would like to see similar standards for the Energy Department’s Natural Gas Subcommittee.”

They called for Deutch, who holds a seat on the board of oil service company Schlumberger, as well as a seat on the board of LNG terminal operator Cheniere Energy, to step down immediately.

Read the full story here:  Washington (Platts)–10Aug2011/322 pm EDT/1922 GMT

Note: this morning NPR ran a story describing the DOE panel’s desire to restore public trust, in order that fracking may go forward, without mentioning any of the conflicts of interest marring this panel’s performance.  The panel’s goal should be to ensure public safety, and a biased panel is incapable of doing so.  But the general public listening to NPR would not have known anything about the raging controversy about the financial conflicts of interest on the panel.  Please refer to the concerns raised by these scientists, which have also been raised by organizations representing hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens — including the Environmental Working Group — should you choose to contact NPR, write letters to the editor or write articles on this topic.

One Comment
  1. susan delone permalink
    August 13, 2011 4:24 pm

    you need to contact every environmental advocacy group with this information and include in your letter, webpages so people can go to NPR and contact them, plus other newspapers and local citizen groups. I will send your article onto my local group : Buckingham Township Civic Association, which is just starting to get interested in t his topic. Thanks for writing this.

    Dr. Susan deLOne

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