Last Wednesday, over 20 scientists from universities and institutions in 13 states wrote a letter of concern to Secretary of Energy Steven Chu over what they called a “lack of impartiality” represented by members of the recently formed advisory subcommitee on hydraulic fracturing and natural gas.
According to the letter, six of the seven members of the Natural Gas Subcommittee of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board have current financial ties to the natural gas industry, including John Deutch, Stephen Holditch, Kathleen McGinty, Susan Tierney, Daniel Yergin and Mark Zoback.
“These conflicts of interest make it appear that the subcommittee is designed to serve industry at taxpayer expense rather than serving President Obama and the public with credible advice,” reads the letter.
Officially assembled in May 2011, the group was charged with addressing reports that hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, poses significant threats to environmental health and the public water supply.
During the hydraulic fracturing process, “millions of gallons of water, sand and proprietary chemicals are injected, under high pressure, into a well. The pressure fractures the shale and props open fissures that enable natural gas to flow more freely out of the well” (Gasland).
Thanks to its use of “advocacy-based science,” the newly-formed group has already concluded that development of shale gas can be done safely provided that companies fully disclose the chemicals used in fracturing liquids, and that they face monitoring of their activities and rigorous standards for emissions of airborne contaminants (iwatchnews.org).
These findings fly in the face of hundreds of reports of water table contamination and flammable drinking water in communities around the country.
Ultimately, American people deserve to know what’s seeping into their water supply, and the gas industry shouldn’t be allowed to stack the deck just because they’d rather keep their chemicals a secret.
“At a minimum,” wrote the scientists, “we ask that John Deutch step down from the subcommittee and that you replace him with a person with no financial ties to the natural gas and oil industry. We also request that you balance the panel with other independent members and that in its evaluation the panel most heavily weight relevant peer-reviewed sources.”
The ball’s in your court Sec. Chu.
Image Credit: Flickr - marcellus protest