Fracking for natural gas is completely safe, according to studies funded by, or overseen by individuals with close relationships to, companies that engage in the practice. Imagine that.
Several reports this week have shed more light on the influence energy companies are bringing to bear at the state level in their quest to expand fracking operations. On Wednesday, the University of Texas announced that it would be forming a panel of independent experts to review a previously issued report on the impact of gas fracking after it was learned that the professor leading the study has been a board member of a publicly-traded gas drilling company since 2007.
According to Bloomberg, the university released a report in February titled "New Study Shows No Evidence of Groundwater Contamination from Hydraulic Fracturing." Presenting the report was Charles Groat, associate director of the Energy Institute and former director of the U.S. Geological Survey. Groat, it turns out, is also a board member of Plains Exploration & Production (PXP), receiving an annual fee ($58,500 in 2011) and 10,000 restricted stock shares a year. Bloomberg found Groat's total holdings in the company to be worth $1.6 million.
Earlier in the week, Bloomberg noted that Pennsylvania is the largest state with no tax on natural gas production. The reason? A 2009 Penn State study that predicted drillers would avoid the state if any new taxes were imposed. Wanna take a guess who funded the study?
"What the study didn't do was note that it was sponsored by gas drillers and led by an economist, now at the University of Wyoming, with a history of producing industry-friendly research on economic and energy issues," noted Bloomberg.
It's been a rough week for frackers, and the barrage is coming on all fronts. Fracking opponents are finding the drought gripping the U.S. to be another arrow in their quiver. Fracking requires the use of millions of gallons of water. The resulting waste water is pumped into deep wells. Devon Energy has said that recycling the water could potentially increase costs by 75%.