photo: André-Pierre du Plessis/CC BY
As the Department of Energy is expected to release tomorrow its draft recommendations on the safety and environmental impacts of fracking, both scientists and lawmakers have sent letters to DoE expressing concern about the panel's members. Six of the seven people on the panel have current financial ties to the natural gas industry.The letter from 28 scientists tied to 22 universities states:
In our work, we believe in reducing individual biases in evaluating the merits of scientific or technological ideas. The current panel does not meet this standard. Six of the seven members have current financial ties to the natural gas and oil industry. These include: chairman John Deutch, Stephen Holditch, Kathleen McGinty, Susan Tierney, Daniel Yergin and Mark Zoback. These conflicts of interest make it appear that the subcommittee is designed to serve industry at taxpayer expense rather than serving President Obama and the public with credible advice.
The committee appears to be performing advocacy-based science and seems to have already concluded that hydraulic fracturing is safe. We believe that the best science should be done first to determine whether increased unconventional natural gas production is sufficiently safe - from the individual water well to climate impact - and that policy should follow.
The letter from 57 New York state legislators notes:
your panel has excluded citizens from New York and other regions affected by fracking. Those whose way of life is at stake deserve a seat at the table where decisions are made. We insist that you add people from affected communities to the panel.
In addition, six of the seven subcommittee members, including panel chair John Deutch, have current financial ties to the natural gas and oil industry. Their inherent conflicts of interest cannot help but undermine the panel's credibility to study the potential threat of fracking. Mr. Deutch should step down, and you should name an independent panel chair and balance the committee with other independent experts.
The Environmental Working Group says that John Deutch has been paid more than $1.4 million from 2006-2009 by two leading natural gas companies, Cheniere Energy (where he serves on the board of directors) and Schlumberger Ltd.