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UT Professor Resigns Over Fracking Conflict of Interest 190

eldavojohn writes "Dr. Charles 'Chip' Groat, lead author of a study claiming there was no link between fracking and water contamination, has resigned at the University of Texas along with Dr. Raymond Orbach, the head of UT's Energy Institute. The reason is that Groat served on the board of a drilling company and received compensation totaling over $1.5 million from that entity over the last five years including time he spent writing the study. After the Public Accountability Initiative gave the UT report a thorough beating for failing to mention this it sparked UT to recommend the report's withdrawal. PAI said the original report was 'based on literature surveys, incident reports and conjecture' and criticized UT's press from downplaying the many caveats. PAI also said conclusions of the original report were 'tentative,' that the press coverage was 'inappropriately selective' and 'seemed to suggest that public concerns were without scientific basis and largely resulted from media bias.' This study was also covered by Slashdot via MSNBC quoting Groat and calling fracking safe in theory but not in practice."
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UT Professor Resigns Over Fracking Conflict of Interest

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  • so it seems (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @02:38PM (#42263373) Homepage
    we're in for a repeat of the smoking and cancer studies. If at first the science doesnt work out in the shareholders interests, change your studies to "controversies" and buy some airtime on Fox News.

    or simply revise the outcome to "fracking safe for multi-billionaires because drilling is illegal in marthas vinyard"
  • A lot of money? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @02:41PM (#42263419)

    I am glad that I left the US everyone's credibility is available for a few extra bucks

    If you really believe that then we're glad you left too.

    To be honest, 1.5M USD is a pretty damned small amount of money...

    Are you some kind of billionaire that you think a million US$ is a small amount of money? That's more than the combined life savings of both of my (retired) parents combined. You can live very comfortably for a lot of years with that amount of money.

    To be honest, 1.5M USD is a pretty damned small amount of money (his salary should be publicly available as he's a state employee in Texas), perhaps as little as 7 years salary (if a full prof.)

    His salary from the University might be but payments like this aren't done through the university and likely are not subject to such scrutiny. It was clearly a huge ethical screw up for him not to disclose the information voluntarily but that doesn't mean it was public information.

  • by marcello_dl ( 667940 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @02:42PM (#42263427) Homepage Journal

    It's easy to say if fracking pollutes water. Make the author of the study, the bosses of the drilling companies, the main owners of the banks who finance them and their families drink the water they guarantee as safe.
    House the japanese government in the Fukushima district.

    Then I'll trust them :)

  • by JBMcB ( 73720 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @02:46PM (#42263489)

    Looks like PAI basically publishes research that attacks papers that deem fracking safe. They might very well be accurate, but something tells me if a well researched and accurate study showing that fracking is indeed safe, it isn't going to make the front page of this site.

  • by Nimey ( 114278 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @03:03PM (#42263677) Homepage Journal

    Or, you know, require water samples to be taken all around the area of the wells for at least a month before drilling begins, then take more samples periodically and compare.

    That's pretty basic science.

  • by GerryGilmore ( 663905 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @03:05PM (#42263699)
    Seeing as you are using the loaded terms "far left", "Union goon", "eco-lawyer" and - for some reason - feel compelled to capitalize "STUDENT", your credibility is sorely lacking in any kind of truly intelligent discussion. Move along - the talk radio fest is starting and you don't want to miss your daily dose of anti-intellectualism, rampant paranoia, fear-mongering and sloganeering. PS - for some reason you omitted ACORN. I know they don't exist anymore but that hasn't seemed to stop the screeching about them....
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @03:12PM (#42263801)

    Or, you know, require water samples to be taken all around the area of the wells for at least a month before drilling begins, then take more samples periodically and compare.

    That's pretty basic science.

    It's also a stellar way of fucking a water supply that can't be unfucked. Go drink the water in West Virginia sometime, then I'll schedule to discuss this with you if I can find time around your goiter appointments with your doctor.

    So what happens after the water goes south and continues to go south? "Basic science" to the rescue? Hahahaha. Let's burn a ton of fossil fuels and see if the world gets warmer, it's basic science!

  • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @03:15PM (#42263841) Homepage Journal

    By making them actually drink the water, you align their personal risk assessment with the risks they ware willing to apply to others. I'm guessing that their estimate of acceptable risk will be somewhat reduced that way.

    In addition, they suddenly become very interested in an accurate and comprehensive testing of water samples rather than a cursory rubber stamp.

  • by pixelpusher220 ( 529617 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @03:18PM (#42263887)
    Which *might* be a reasonable argument when they first questioned the study. Now, however, it's been definitively proven that there was blatant conflict of interest, the professor has resigned and the report retracted.

    Leftist hippies or not...they were right in claiming this was a problem and have been vindicated as such.
  • by Desler ( 1608317 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @03:21PM (#42263931)

    So the take away here is that these geologists at the University of Texas are ethical, even the appearance of impropriety is enough for them to step down.

    Which is not what happened heree. They hid their conflict of interest while writing and after publishing their paper. They only stepped down because they got caught. If you think they resigned completely of their own choice is hilariously naive.

    But when professors funding research through climate change alarmism are caught red handed manipulating data at the University of East Anglia and Pennsylvania State University they just hang in there.

    *yawn* Climategate was a manufactured controversy by oil industy shills. Maybe you missed it but the professors were acquitted of any wrongdoing by multiple independent parties who investigated the matter in both the UK and the US. That is why they still have their jobs unlike the professors in this case.

  • Why do you imply he's a leftist for stating that people whose water got contaminated due to fracking might not like guys like these professors?

    As I understand it, restrictions on acts of large businesses, such as measures to protect natural resources from misuse, are considered a left-wing position in United States politics.

  • by NatasRevol ( 731260 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @04:09PM (#42264581) Journal

    As I understand it, poisoning someone's food/water is a reason for threatening violence, no matter what the political or religious stance.

  • by danbert8 ( 1024253 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @04:34PM (#42264923)

    I'd drink the effluent from a waste water treatment plant. It's clean... Cleaner than the water in the river it's being discharged into. In fact, if it weren't for squeamish people like you, we'd save a ton of money chlorinating that effluent and pumping it right back into the drinking water supply, but instead we contaminate it by putting it back in nature and sending it downstream to the next treatment plant that has to spend tons of money just to get all of the nature filtered back out of it.

  • by Holi ( 250190 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @06:17PM (#42266205)

    Wait, nowhere did he say the WV water issue was caused by tracking. Hell I instantly thought of coal mining. What he was saying is when you fuck up an aquifer there is no way to reverse the damage, which leads to screwing everyone who lives in the area.

  • by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @08:25PM (#42267431) Homepage

    I have got an easier test for you, it's called the legislative test. If corporations are going to start doing something that is highly profitable but has a very high risk of harm, look for new wonky regulations to protect those profits.

    Hydraulic fracturing was exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act, removing the bulk of fiscal liability for contaminating water supplies.

    End of test. Hydraulic fracturing is dangerous and will pollute water supplies. OTHERWISE WHY CHANGE THE FUCKING LAW.

"Yeah, but you're taking the universe out of context."