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By Steve Horn
[Editor's note: Yes, many blows to the fracking industry lately, including the announcement yesterday from the faculty at the Community College of Philadelphia about passing a resolution calling on the college “to sever all ties to the Marcellus Shale Coalition and the gas fracking industry” and urging the college instead “to expand its initiatives and offerings in clean, green energy and environmental career fields.”]
Weeks after SUNY Buffalo's upper-level administration gave the Shale Resources and Society Institute (SRSI) the boot due to its gas industry public relations effort masked as a "study," University of Texas-Austin's (UT-Austin) administration has somewhat followed suit for its own "frackademia" study.
The decision comes in the aftermath of an independent review of a controversial study completed under UT-Austin's auspices.
Like SRSI's "shill gas study," UT-Austin brought itself attention when it published a "study" in February 2012 titled, Separating Fact From Fiction in Shale Gas Development. UT-Austin's study—conducted under the wings of its Energy Institute—claimed that there's "no scientific proof" that unconventional oil and gas development can be linked to groundwater contamination.
As it turns out, the author's lead investigator, Charles "Chip" Groat is on the payroll of the oil and gas industry via Plains Exploration & Production, a direct conflict-of-interest under the standards of academia (not to be confused with those of "frackademia"). "Groat earned more than double his University of Texas salary as a PXP board member in 2011—$413,900 as opposed to $173,273—and he has amassed over $1.6 million in stock during his tenure there," Public Accountability Initiative (PAI) explained in a report.
The embarrassment created by these revelations moved Groat to retire after the spring semester, while the head of the Energy Institute, Raymond Orbach, stepped down yesterday as head of the institute, though he'll still remain on the UT-Austin faculty.
UT-Austin's administration, in effect, has decided to distance itself from the report due to its numerous conflicts-of-interest, though unlike the SRSI, the Energy Institute won't be ended.
"The school said it will undertake six recommended actions, the most significant being the withdrawal of papers from the Energy Institute’s Web site related to the report until they are submitted for fresh expert review," explained the New York Times.
Kevin Connor, director of PAI, issued this statement in response to UT-Austin's decision:
The University of Texas has now joined the University at Buffalo in sending a strong message to the oil and gas industry: our universities are not for sale. This is another major blow to gas industry pseudoscience and a victory for academic integrity in the debate around fracking.
The University of Texas deserves credit for taking a difficult but important stand for transparency and integrity by releasing this review and pursuing these recommendations.
U of Michigan: The Next Frontier for "Frackademia"?
This announcement comes soon after University of Michigan-Ann Arbor stated it would be conducting its own forthcoming two-year study on the ecological impacts of fracking in Michigan.
"Industry representatives, nongovernmental organizations, state government officials, academic experts and other stakeholders are providing input," explained University of Michigan in a press release.
Members of the study's Steering Committee include two representatives of the Michigan Oil and Gas Association and members of Republican Gov. Rick Snyder's cabinet, along with several university-affiliated faculty members.
A Dec. 3 story by Energy and Environment News explained that Energy in Depth, the shale gas industry front group, will also be deeply involved with the study.
"Some of those stakeholders are being pulled in as resources for the UM study, said Energy in Depth Field Director Erik Bauss, whom UM researchers have already called on to help facilitate a visit to a Michigan frack site," wrote E and E.
Given the recent state of play for "frackademics," DeSmog will be keeping a close eye on the Michigan study in the weeks and months ahead. Stay tuned.
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
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‘Companies Should Not Be Allowed to Use Hazardous Ingredients in Products People Use’: Michelle Pfeiffer Speaks Up for Safer Cosmetics
The beauty products we put on our skin can have important consequences for our health. Just this March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that some Claire's cosmetics had tested positive for asbestos. But the FDA could only issue a warning, not a recall, because current law does not empower the agency to do so.
Michelle Pfeiffer wants to change that.
The actress and Environmental Working Group (EWG) board member was spotted on Capitol Hill Thursday lobbying lawmakers on behalf of a bill that would increase oversight of the cosmetics industry, The Washington Post reported.
By Julia Conley
Scientists at the United Nations' intergovernmental body focusing on biodiversity sounded alarms earlier this month with its report on the looming potential extinction of one million species — but few heard their calls, according to a German newspaper report.
The climate crisis is a major concern for American voters with nearly 40 percent reporting the issue will help determine how they cast their ballots in the upcoming 2020 presidential election, according to a report compiled by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.
Of more than 1,000 registered voters surveyed on global warming, climate and energy policies, as well as personal and collective action, 38 percent said that a candidate's position on climate change is "very important" when it comes to determining who will win their vote. Overall, democratic candidates are under more pressure to provide green solutions as part of their campaign promises with 64 percent of Democrat voters saying they prioritize the issue compared with just 34 percent of Independents and 12 percent of Republicans.
President Donald Trump has agreed to sign a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill that will help Americans still recovering from the flooding, hurricanes and wildfires that have devastated parts of the country in the past two years. Senate Republicans said they struck a deal with the president to approve the measure, despite the fact that it did not include the funding he wanted for the U.S.-Mexican border, CNN reported.
"The U.S. Senate has just approved a 19 Billion Dollar Disaster Relief Bill, with my total approval. Great!" the president tweeted Thursday.
"There was a lot of devastation throughout the state," Governor Mike Parson said at a Thursday morning press conference, as NPR reported. "We were very fortunate last night that we didn't have more injuries than what we had, and we didn't have more fatalities across the state. But three is too many."