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University Pro-Fracking Paper Nixed on Conflict of Interest
The University of Texas at Austin has pulled a 2012 UT Energy Institute report that was supportive of hydraulic fracturing and shale gas development following a review of the study by an independent panel that found researchers failed to disclose a conflict of interest.
The report was titled “Fact-Based Regulation for Environmental Protection in Shale Gas Development,” which was was “a synthesis of various white papers written about hydraulic fracturing,” was released early this year (see Shale Daily, Feb. 21).
“The members of the review committee emphasize that they make no judgment as to the merits or demerits of hydraulic fracturing; this is not an area of their collective expertise nor is it an area of focus for this review,” the committee said in the summary of its report on the study. “The authors simply conclude that the particular report…was severely diminished by the failure of the principal investigator to disclose a clear conflict of interest — albeit, we are satisfied, without ill intent.
“Similarly, the many caveats presented in the body of the report simply were not adequately reflected in the public presentation of the report — as is supported by the tone of the media’s coverage of the effort.”
Some of the “Fact-Based” reports findings on water contamination related to natural gas production:
The principal investigator for the report was Charles Groat. Last month, Groat retired from his faculty position at UT Austin, and Energy Institute Director Raymond Orbach resigned. Orbach had no direct role in overseeing Groat’s report, the university said. A search is under way to recruit new leadership at the institute.
The investigation of the report found that some researchers who worked on it failed to file conflict of interest disclosures and that Groat failed to disclose “a material financial relationship as a member of the board of directors of Plains Exploration and Production.” The other researchers told the committee that their work was unchanged either by or at the urging of Groat.
In a statement the university emphasized that “the content of the report…was not under review for validation or criticism and that the panel ‘found no evidence of intentional misrepresentation’ by the authors.”
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