Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Fracking study on water wells contested because researchers were paid by Chesapeake Energy

A study that said that drinking-water wells in Pennsylvania close to natural gas sites do not face a greater risk of methane contamination than those farther away is under scrutiny because of the study's methodology and because some of the research was funded by Chesapeake Energy, Neela Banerjee reports for InsideClimate News.

The study, published in Environmental Science and Technology, contradicts "recent studies that identified a correlation between proximity to natural gas wells and higher methane levels in well water," Banerjee writes. "The new study analyzed more than 11,000 water samples collected by Chesapeake and provided to researchers."

Researchers also failed to divulge the scope of their ties to Chesapeake, including fees the company paid to study author Donald Siegel, chairman of earth sciences at Syracuse University, to carry out his research, Banerjee writes. "One of the paper's four co-authors, Bert Smith, worked for Chesapeake during some of the period when the study took place, which also wasn't disclosed. Smith works for the company today. The paper only acknowledges that Chesapeake provided the dataset."

While the industry welcomed the study and Siegel says his research was not influenced by Cheaspeake, "scientists not involved in the study reacted cautiously because of its methodology, in which Chesapeake sampled treated water and used a methane sampling method that major water labs don't use," Banerjee writes.

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