Thursday, March 7, 2013


So.  Here's this energy expert, Charles "Chip" Groat, lead author of a prestigious study that gives hydraulic fracturing--better known as fracking--a clean bill of health.  No evidence of groundwater contamination.  Safe.  Clean.

Prof. Groat has impeccable credentials.  He has served on more than a dozen earth science boards.  He was executive director of the American Geological Institute.  He was chief of the U.S. Geological Survey--as clean an agency as the federal government has, in my view--under both presidents Clinton and Bush.  At the time of the study he was interim dean of the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas at Austin as well as Director of the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy at U.T.  The study was reported as conclusive in one of the scientific world's most authoritative journals, Nature.

Oh, but.  Turns out there's one little detail ol' Chip didn't mention.  It seems that he sits on the board of a little old company called Plains Exploration & Production Company of Houston, which describes itself as "primarily engaged in the activities of acquiring, developing, exploring and producing oil and gas."  He owns 40,000 shares in the company, and in 2011 they paid Charles "Chip" Groat some $400,000.

Caught red-handed by a nonprofit watchdog group, the Public Accountability Initiative, ol' Chip declared that disclosing his relationship with that company "would not have served any meaningful purpose relevant to this study."

He hadn't told the University of Texas, either, and they commissioned an outside investigation of the matter, which culminated, in November 2012, in Prof. Groat's resignation.  He's still on the PXP board, and the study, though riddled with flaws, has never been withdrawn.

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