University of Texas Shuns Its Own Natural Gas Study
NOTE: This post was cross-posted on MDN
The University of Texas has withdrawn their natural gas study on groundwater and natural gas development, specifically hydraulic fracturing. Jim Willis of Marcellus Drilling News takes a look at the reasons behind this decision and their implications.
The University of Texas (UT) is the latest institution of “higher learning” to succumb to political correctness—they have withdrawn (censored) a previously published study that concludes hydraulic fracturing does not pollute groundwater. Science has gone out the door at UT like it did at the University at Buffalo, over the same issue. Professors and researchers issue a report, based on scientific evidence, that anti-natural gas activists perceive as favorable to fracking—and the activists form up like a pack of wolves and hunt down anyone connected to the research and resulting report. “You say fracking doesn’t contaminate water, that there’s no scientific proof that it does (going against our orthodoxy)? You’re dead meat—we’re coming for you.”
Thing is, the chief accuser, the alpha wolf who’s doing the hunting, is the Public Accountability Initiative (PAI). Who are they? An anti-fossil fuel organization funded in the background by ultra-leftist and financial markets manipulator George Soros (see this MDN story for background). Bloomberg and other mainstream media won’t touch that part of the story—the part that those doing the accusing are full of conflicts of interest themselves. That doesn’t fit the template narrative of their reporting.
Here’s the news that Bloomberg is only too happy to report:
University of Texas research that determined hydraulic fracturing for natural gas is safe was tainted by a conflict of interest involving the study’s lead investigator, an independent panel has concluded.
After seeing the panel’s findings, the head of the Energy Institute, Raymond Orbach, said he would “assume full responsibility” and resigned his position though he remains on the faculty. The lead investigator, professor Charles Groat, has left the university and the study he oversaw has been withdrawn, according to a statement the school released yesterday.
The “study falls short of the generally accepted rigor required for the publication of scientific work,” the panel said in its report. “Primary among the shortcomings was the failure of the principal investigator to disclose a conflict of interest.”
The university appointed the panel after Bloomberg News reported July 23 that Groat sat on the board of a gas-drilling company, which wasn’t disclosed when the study was released in February.
The findings mark the third blow to industry-friendly fracking research in as many months. The State University of New York at Buffalo shuttered a Shale Resources and Society Institute after the college president said there was a “cloud of uncertainty” over its work. The Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry group, canceled a study of fracking after faculty members at Pennsylvania State University balked at participating.
“It sends a strong signal to the industry that our universities are not for sale,” said Kevin Connor, director of the Public Accountability Initiative, a group that has tried to expose these ties.
Groat had been on the board of Plains Exploration & Production Co. since 2007, a relationship he didn’t disclose in the report, or when he presented the Texas findings at the the American Association for the Advancement of Science. As a board member, Groat received 10,000 shares of restricted stock a year, according to company reports. He also received an annual fee, which was $58,500 in 2011.
As of March 29 Groat held 40,138 shares in the company, which would be worth more than $1.7 million at yesterday’s closing share price.
Groat, who selected the researchers and edited its summary, said in an e-mail yesterday that the panel backed his contention that he didn’t inject bias into the individual researchers’ papers. “I maintained that my role was not one that would allow this to happen,” he wrote.
The panel also said that Groat, who said he took another job before the controversy erupted over the fracking study, was “probably not in violation of the university’s” conflict of interest policy “as it existed at the time.” It has since been tightened.
The three-member review panel, headed by the former chairman of Lockheed Martin Corp., Norman R. Augustine, recommended that the Energy Institute should “embrace and enforce” the university’s policies on conflicts of interest.
The panel did identify a number of shortcomings with the studies and how they were presented in press releases and by Groat.*
And who is Dr. Charles Groat? Former director of the U.S. Geological Survey. Distinguished professor and geologist with a sterling career and reputation. He’s a scientist (and not a college drop-out like his accuser). Dr. Groat’s academic crime? Reporting the truth:
Groat’s study, titled “Separating Fact from Fiction in Shale Gas Development,” concluded that there’s no evidence of groundwater contamination from hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking. The Feb. 16 press release by the Energy Institute said: “New Study Shows No Evidence of Groundwater Contamination from Hydraulic Fracturing.”*
The gauntlet had been thrown down. Groat sits on the board of an industry company and actually got paid for doing it. With his sterling reputation and pedigree, they could not let his study stand because it gives credibility to an industry they’ve targeted. And so Groat had to go. UT has now shunned the study that he helped research:
The university has accepted the panel’s recommendations, according to its statement. The Energy Institute has pulled the study from its website and stopped distributing copies. The contributing researchers should be allowed to redraft their work “into forms suitable for publication in peer-reviewed scientific or academic journals,” the panel wrote.
“The university and the Board of Regents embrace business collaborations and investments in university research, and they aspire to be a national model with public/private partnerships,” the university said in its statement. “Therefore they also aspire to be a national leader in systems oversight, compliance and internal safeguards.”*
No worries. While the study was still out in the wild we grabbed it and you can read it for yourself (below). There are two documents embedded below. The first is inaccurately identified in the Bloomberg article above as “the study” that Groat headed, “Separating Fact from Fiction in Shale Gas Development.” That’s actually just a summary brochure of the real study, which is titled, “Fact-Based Regulation for Environmental Protection in Shale Gas Development.” Both documents have since been pulled from the UT website.