University of Texas Scrambling to Contain Fallout from Compromised Pro-Fracking ReportJul 25th, 2012 | By fjgallagher | Category: Fracking, Lead Articles
The University of Texas is reacting swiftly to contain the mounting public relations damage done by a supposedly “independent” analysis of hydraulic fracturing that declared, “there is at present little or no evidence of groundwater contamination from hydraulic fracturing of shales at normal depths” — a document that was in fact co-written by a UT faculty member who is also a member of the Board of Directors of a natural gas drilling company.
University of Texas Provost Steve Leslie today said he’d convene a panel of experts to re-examine the conclusions made by University of Texas Prof. Charles “Chip” Groat in a February 2012 report published by the University of Texas’ Energy Institute.
According to an investigation detailed recently by the Public Accountability Initiative, Groat received more than $400,000 in 2011 as compensations for serving as a member of the Board of Directors at Plains Exploration and Production (PXP).
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From the PAI report:
The UT report’s principal investigator, Charles “Chip” Groat, failed to disclose in his report bio or in his presentations on the report that he is a board member of Plains Exploration and Production (PXP), an oil and gas company that is heavily involved in fracking. Groat earned more than double his University of Texas salary as a PXP board member in 2011 – $413,900 as opposed to $173,273 – and he has amassed over $1.6 million in stock during his tenure there. Groat has been linked to unreliable research in the past. He resigned as head of the US Geological Survey in 2005 during a major research scandal surrounding a study of the possibility of water infiltration at Yucca Mountain.
Indeed, PXP annual reports clearly indicate that Prof. Groat is a member of the company’s Board of Directors.
From the 2011 PXP Annual Report:
Neither Groat, Provost Leslie, nor UT Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, would speak with NaturalGasWatch.org, despite repeated requests, and there is as yet no indication when such a group will come together or who will comprise its membership.
Leslie did, though, tell several media outlets that,
“The most important asset we have as an institution is the public’s trust. If that is in question, then that is something we need to address. We will identify a group of outside experts to review the Energy Institute’s report on the effects of hydraulic fracturing. We hope to have that group identified and the results back within a few weeks. We believe that the research meets our standards, but it is important to let an outside group of experts take an independent look.”
Leslie also told Bloomberg News, though, that, “We believe that the research meets our standards.”
In an email to a publication called Science Insider, Groat said:
he thought his board membership wasn’t relevant to the project and he didn’t have an actual conflict of interest. “Free from apparent conflict of interest is in the eye of the beholder and tougher to deal with,” he admits. “My choice was to avoid actual conflict, but clearly many have perceptions of conflict that they feel are important even if there was no actual influence of my energy company relationship.”Groat added: “Others feel I should have disclosed my industry relationship and I respect their opinions which will likely lead to disclosures in the future.”
Read Groat’s study here: UT Fracking Study
Read the PAI report, “Contaminated Inquiry,” here: Contaminated Inquiry