Last week the University of Texas provost announced he would re-examine a report by a UT professor that said fracking was safe for groundwater after the revelation that the professor pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Texas natural gas developer.
It’s the latest fusillade in the ongoing battle over the basic facts of fracking in America.
Texans aren’t the only ones having their fracking conversations shaped by industry-funded research. Ohioans got their first taste last week of the latest public-relations campaign by the energy policy wing of the US Chamber of Commerce.
It’s called “Shale Works for US,” and it aims to spend millions on advertising and public events to sell Ohioans on the idea that fracking is a surefire way to yank the state out of recession.
The report paints a bright future for fracking in Ohio as a job-creator.
One co-author of the study, Robert Chase, is poised at such a high-traffic crossroads of that state’s natural gas universe that his case was recently taken up by the Ohio Ethics Commission, whose chairman called him “more than a passing participant in the operations of the Ohio oil and gas industry,” and questioned his potential conflicts of interest.
As landowners in a suite of natural gas-rich states like Texas and Ohio struggle to to decipher conflicting reports about the safety of fracking, Chase is a piece in what environmental and academic watchdogs call a growing puzzle of industry-funded fracking research with poor disclosure and dubious objectivity.
“It’s hard to find someone who’s truly independant and doesn’t have at least one iron in the fire,” said Ohio oil and gas lease attorney Mark F. Okey.
“It’s a good ol’ boys network and they like to take care of their own.”