Bloomberg News set off a controversy in Texas this week with its report on how the natural gas industry has financed research at universities to bolster its case for drilling and the safety of hydraulic fracturing.
The story, by Jim Efstathiou Jr., reported that Charles Groat, associate director of the Energy Institute at the University of Texas and former director of the U.S. Geological Survey, oversaw a report concluding that "while there have been surface spills of fracking wastewater, there is no evidence of groundwater contamination from fluids injected thousands of feet below the surface."
What Groat didn't report is that he sits on the board of Plains Exploration & Production, which is fracking in Texas, and holds more than 40,000 shares of Plains stock.
Bloomberg reported that UT's press release garnered lots of media attention (including at article in the Star-Telegram):
“New Study Shows No Evidence of Groundwater Contamination from Hydraulic Fracturing,” according to the university’s Feb. 16 press release. The study cost about $270,000, none of which came from industry sources, according to university spokesman Gary Rasp.
“This report got more traction with the media because it was framed as independent,” Kevin Connor, director of the Public Accountability Initiative, a Buffalo non-profit that focuses on corruption in business and government, said in an interview. Connor’s group, which is preparing a report on the Groat study, receives funding from organizations such as the Sunlight Foundation and United Republic, which favor greater transparency in government.
Today, The Associated Press reports that UT will independently review the study "after learning that the lead author is a paid board member of a company that uses the drilling method."
-- Steve Kaskovich