AP, NYT, USA Today, and IBT Fix ‘Fracking’ Story with Water Study’s Hidden Conflict of Interest

UPDATE (5/13/2015; 9:00 am ET): The New York Times issued a correction last night:


UPDATE (5/12/2015; 4:30 pm ET):  International Business Times has also issued a correction:

IBT correction

UPDATE (5/12/2015; 2:50 pm ET): USA Today just joined the Associated Press in issuing a correction:

USA today

Original post, May 12, 2015

Upon learning that researchers of a recent study, which alleged a link between Marcellus Shale development and groundwater contamination, failed to disclose a significant conflict of interest, the Associated Press today responded by issuing a correction to its coverage.  As the Associated Press writes,

“In a story May 4, The Associated Press reported on research that found drilling fluids likely leaked into a drinking water supply in Pennsylvania. The story should have noted that one of the study’s authors, Garth T. Llewellyn, was a consultant for affected homeowners who sued the driller. That information was not included on a pre-publication version of the study provided to reporters by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, but it was later added to the published version.” (emphasis added)

The embargoed copy of the report, which was shared widely with reporters on Thursday ahead of its May 4th release, stated in the bottom right hand corner: “The authors declare no conflict of interest.”

Yet, when the study was actually published, that line was replaced with this: “Conflict of interest statement: G.T.L. and Appalachia Consulting provided litigation support and environmental consulting services to the impacted households.”

Here’s a screenshot of the embargoed copy followed by the published text (click to enlarge; see bottom right in each):


This discovery comes just a few weeks after EID testified before the House Science Committee and released a whitepaper detailing how the research used to justify the ban on fracking in New York involved a number of studies that were written or peer reviewed by researchers with undisclosed ties to the political campaign to ban fracking in the state.

Interestingly, anti-fracking activists and their allies in the press have made hay out of a recent study written by researchers at Syracuse University, which they claim didn’t fully disclose its ties to industry. InsideClimate News (ICN) said the Syracuse study should be “called into question because of its methodology and some undisclosed ties” to a natural gas producer.  ICN followed up with a new article  on the study just last week. Then, the Post-Standard wrote up a piece with the headline: “Scientific journal: SU prof paid by Chesapeake for pro-fracking study,” which was reposted by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Now the question is: will these outlets offer the same scrutiny on this particular failure to disclose?

Additionally, now that the AP has updated its story, will the New York Times,* USA Today,* International Business Times,* and Bloomberg follow suit, since they were similarly misled?

* New York TimesUSA Today and International Business Times have since updated their stories.

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