New York Times environmental writer Andrew Revkin wrote on the paper's Dot.Earth blog, "Transparency and peer review matter in considering the merits of the science" cited by both sides of the debate. He had complimented a University of Texas Energy Institute report that downplayed fracking consequences, then discovered the lead researcher's ties to the gas industry weren't mentioned in the report, "leaving it up to journalists and watchdogs to reveal."
|Photo: America's Natural Gas Alliance|
A recent Duke University study on fracking said some Pennsylvania aquifers might be at risk of contamination, but Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York geologist Tom Johnson told David Bertola of Buffalo Business First that the study raises many questions. “To me, the story here is not even so much about what is said in the paper, it’s a matter of some researchers here that put out an article is full of innuendo,” Johnson said. “They admit in several places that there’s more study that needs to be done.”
Some research is conducted by university professors, but is funded by the gas industry to help prove its claims about the safety of fracking, Jim Efstathiou of Bloomberg reports. A 2009 study predicted that drillers would avoid Pennsylvania gas fields if the state taxed their industry (as every other state does), and lawmakers voted against the tax. But Efstathiou notes the study was commissioned by drillers and led by an industry-friendly economist. Gas drillers "are taking a page from the tobacco industry playbook: funding research at established universities" that will counter critics' concerns, he writes.
Inside Higher Ed's Kaustuv Basu delved further into how the fracking battle is increasingly being fought at universities. A forthcoming study in New York says newborn babies' health is adversely affected by fracking, and Laura Olsen of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that officials in Washington County, Pennsylvania, are beginning a one-year air quality study near several gas-drilling sites. Meanwhile, the Obama administration refused to take a side in the debate, as the government continues its review of fracking risks, Peter Behr of Energy and Environment News reports(Subscription may be required).