N.C. State professors among scientists protesting fracking subcommittee

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Two N.C. State University assistant professors were among 28 scientists from 22 institutions who signed a letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu expressing their concern over the “impartiality” on a subcommittee that is studying the impacts of fracking. Read the letter here: Scientists_CHU_Letter_SIGNED.pdf

“We urge you to modify the panel’s membership so that the panel can make recommendations on hydraulic fracturing that are unbiased and scientifically sound,” wrote the signatories, including Owen Duckworth and Matthew Polizzotto, both soil scientists at N.C. State.

Duckworth is out of the office until mid-August and could not be reached for comment. The Indy could not immediately reach Polizzotto.

The Natural Gas Subcommittee is part of the Secretary of Energy Science Advisory Board. Six of the seven members currently have financial ties to the natural gas and oil industry.

In May, The New York Times reported on the panelists’ credentials, but the Environmental Working Group fleshed out many additional details.

Subcommittee chairman John Deutch is a former undersecretary of Energy in the Carter administration, serves on the board of a Houston-based liquefied natural gas company, Cheniere Energy, which, according to the E.W.G., paid him $882,000 over three years. While Deutch was on the board of Schlumberger Ltd., one of the world’s lartest facking companies, he received $563,000 in 2006-07. He is a professor at M.I.T. The scientists are asking that Deutch step down from the committee altogether.

Stephen Holditch is the head of Texas A&M’s Vance Department of Petroleum Engineering and serves on the board of directors of two petroleum corporations. His former consulting firm, later bought by Schlumberger, designed hydraulic fracture treatments.

Kathleen McGinty recently served as secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection. That state is the site of major fracking operations. She is a director at NRG Energy. She also held the post of secretary of environmental affairs for the State of Massachusetts. E.W.G. reported that she is senior vice president of Weston Solutions, Inc., which consults for the oil and gas industry, including Chesapeake Energy.

Susan Tierney, who served in the Energy Department during the Clinton administration, chairs the National Petroleum Council Policy Subgroup’s study of natural gas and oil resources in North America. She is managing principal of Analysis Group, which consults for utilities that use natural gas.

Daniel Yergin, chairman of IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates, whose clients include He is also a member of the National Petroleum Council.

Mark Zoback, according to the E.W.G., is a geophysics professor at Stanford and a senior adviser to Baker Hughes, an oilfield services company involved in fracking. He chairs GeoMechanics International, which consults on oil and gas drilling problems.

Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, is the only panelist without financial ties to the petroleum industry. Although he was the only panelist not named by the scientists, the E.W.G. report did question his objectivity on fracking because of relationships between EDF’s chief spokesman, Scott Anderson and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission of which he is a member. The commission opposes extending the federal Safe Drinking Water Act to fracking.

The Environmental Protection Agency previously appointed a Science Advisory Board to examine similar issues, the letter pointed out. However, the EPA evaluated the board candidates’ financial ties before making its appointments. “We would like to see similar standards for the Energy Department’s Natural Gas Subcommittee,” the letter reads.

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