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Home / Articles / Views / The Highroad /  A fracking conflict of interest
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Thursday, August 23,2012

A fracking conflict of interest

By Jim Hightower

ExxonMobil, Halliburton and other giants of the hydraulic fracturing industry not only are fracking deep gas wells all over our country, they’re also trying to frack our heads.

 

“Fracking is perfectly safe,” they insist. “Trust us!” Excuse me, but no. Your “trust us” ploys have exploded in our faces again and again. This is why we need independent assessments of the impacts that such profiteers have on our Earth, lives and livelihoods. But “independent” has to mean, at minimum, not tarnished by financial or other ties to the industry.

Yet this fairly straightforward ethical concept seems beyond the grasp of some academics and administrators at the University of Texas — an appendage of which recently published a report asserting that fracking does not contaminate people’s groundwater. Good news, screeched the big frackers — see, we told you to trust us.

Hold it, slick. It turns out that the principal investigator and author of this assessment has a bit of an untidy conflict of interest. For years, he has sat on the board of a gas fracking corporation. Last year alone, that fracker paid him $413,900 — more than double his university paycheck! Moreover, he holds $1.6 million worth of the corporation’s stock. None of this had been revealed to the university — or to the readers of his “independent” report.

At first, university officials rushed to this guy’s defense, declaring that a professor of his stature wouldn’t be influenced by having a couple of million bucks invested in the success of fracking. That didn’t wash, of course, so now UT has assembled a high-priced panel of national establishment figures to assess the credibility of his report.

Credibility? You don’t need a Ph.D. to know that its credibility is zilch. Why is this ethical slacker being coddled, rather than sacked?

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.

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