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Home / Articles / Views / The Highroad /  A fracking surprise in Texas
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Thursday, December 27,2012

A fracking surprise in Texas

By Jim Hightower

How ironic: Fracking recently got fracked!

This brutish technique for extracting natural gas from deep within the Earth, led by such profiteering giants as Exxon Mobil and Halliburton, has rapidly swept across America. Indeed, it has run right over local residents who’ve had their air and water polluted, their families sickened, and their own economic futures imperiled.

As usual, the frackers pooh-poohed the concerns of these bothersome citizens, insisting that the process is perfectly safe, doing no damage to people or the environment. Their assertion of purity was bolstered several months ago by an academic research report issued by the prestigious Energy Institute at the University of Texas. In a summary of the white papers that made up the report, lead researcher Charles Groat declared that the scientists found little or no evidence of damage to groundwater. So there you have it — an academic acquittal of fracking.

Well, not quite. A watchdog group called Public Accountability Initiative popped up with the revelation that professor Groat held some $1.7 million worth of stock in a gas fracking corporation, served on its board, and was paid $400,000 by it as the report was being assembled. This forced UT to announce that a three-member panel would investigate — a ploy that many critics feared would be a whitewash.

No such luck for Groat, however. Using blunt terms like “distortion,” “inappropriately selective,” and “very poor judgment,” the panel excoriated the professor and the university, concluding that the hoked-up report should be withdrawn. The panel’s findings were, as the watchdog put it: a “damning critique.” So damning that UT has since withdrawn the report, Groat was compelled to retire, and the head of the Energy Institute has resigned.

Now that’s a thorough frack job!

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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

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