An independent review of a fracking study from UT’s Energy Institute was released yesterday, and it reports serious flaws with the study’s design and release. The study’s author and the Energy Institute director have retired or resigned.
In February, UT geologist Charles Groat and the Energy Institute, headed by Raymond Orbach, released a study titled “Fact-Based Regulation for Environmental Protection in Shale Gas Development.” The preliminary study found no direct link between hydraulic fracturing—the controversial drilling practice called fracking—and groundwater contamination.
The watchdog group Public Accountability Initiative revealed in July that Groat failed to disclose his financial ties to Plains Exploration and Productions, an oil and gas company that practices fracking. UT then convened a panel of outside experts to review the study. Groat announced his retirement in November, and following the review’s release yesterday and Orbach announced he would resign as head of the Energy Institute (but not from his faculty position).
The review cites multiple problems with the original study. “The design, management, review and release of the study … fell short of contemporary standards for scientific work,” the report says. “Primary among the shortcomings was the failure of the Principal Investigator [Groat] to disclose a conflict of interest that could have had a bearing on the credibility a reader wished to assign to the resulting work.”
In a press release, UT said it will implement all the review’s recommendations, including more stringent conflict-of-interest policies. “The University of Texas at Austin will work with the UT System Administration to conduct a compliance review for the purposes of improving internal procedures,” the release said.
Read the independent review in full here:
Fracking Study Review
Image by Erik Zumalt, Cockrell School Faculty Innovation Center.