Fracking Company Paid Texas Professor Behind Water Contamination Study

Fracking Company Paid Texas Professor Behind Water Contamination Study by Terrence Henry, July 23, 2012, State Impact NPR
Dr. Charles “Chip” Groat, who led a study on fracking and groundwater contamination, didn’t disclose over a million dollars in compensation and stock from a drilling company. … Groat, a former Director of the U.S. Geological Survey and professor at the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas at Austin, also sits on the board of Plains Exploration and Production Company, a Houston-based company that conducts drilling and fracking in Texas and other parts of the country. According to the new report (and a review of the company’s financial reports by Bloomberg) Groat received more than $400,000 from the drilling company last year alone, more than double his salary at the University. And one of the shales examined in Groat’s fracking study is currently being drilled by the company, the report says. Since 2007, Groat has received over $1.5 million in cash and stock awards from the company, and he currently holds over $1.6 million in company stock, according to the PAI report. (Update: we clarified with PAI, and that $1.6 million in stock comes from the stock awards over the years. PAI says Groat’s total compensation from the company is close to $2 million.) The report also notes that of the sixteen members of the Energy Institute’s advisory board, thirteen have “strong ties to the oil and gas industry,” and that the Institute recently received $1.5 million from ConocoPhillips to support a case study of fracking in the Barnett Shale in Fort Worth, Texas. And this spring the University announced several donations from the oil and gas industry: $1.19 million from ExxonMobil given to the University; $6 million from oil and gas man Jon Brumley; and $1.7 million from oilfield services company Baker Hughes for drilling technology. This isn’t the first time that academic studies of drilling have been called into question because of industry ties. In an earlier report on a State University of New York at Buffalo study on fracking’s environmental risks, Public Accountability Initiative found that it “suffered a number of critical shortcomings” and the “report’s authors had strong industry ties.” And in today’s investigation from Bloomberg, they found other instances of industry influence and financial ties at Pennsylvania State University and University of Wyoming.

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