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EWG: Chair of Dept. of Energy Natural Gas Panel Must Step Down

For Immediate Release: 
Wednesday, June 1, 2011

 

Washington, D.C. – During a public meeting of the Secretary of Energy’s advisory board on natural gas extraction and hydraulic fracturing, the Environmental Working Group called on the panel’s chairman to resign because of his financial ties to the oil and gas industry.

“John Deutch must step down from the panel,” EWG Senior Counsel Dusty Horwitt said. “…The panel must be chaired by an impartial person and must also be expanded to include independent experts.”

Read statement by EWG's senior council Dusty Horwitt.

Horwitt noted that during a stint on the board of Schlumberger Ltd., one of the world’s three largest hydraulic fracturing companies, Deutch, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, received about $563,000 in compensation from Schlumberger in 2006 and 2007, according to Forbes Magazine online. He is now on the board of Cheniere Energy, Inc., a Houston-based liquified natural gas company that, according to Forbes, paid him about $882,000 from 2006 through 2009.

Horwitt also noted that six of seven members of the advisory board had current financial ties to the natural gas industry. He urged the Obama administration to balance the panel by adding representatives from communities affected by drilling operations.

“Thousands of people in Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and many other states have reached out to the government to express their concerns about the environmental impacts of fracking,” Horwitt said. “Yet the secretary’s decision to appoint these members to the panel sends a clear signal that the administration is listening to the top brass of the industry, not real people at the grass roots who are concerned and affected by fracking.”

“We share President Obama’s concern over rising energy prices,” Horwitt said. “But Americans’ health and the safety of their drinking water are just as important. In light of the complexity of the issue and EPA’s ongoing scientific study, this panel should take the time to examine hydraulic fracturing thoroughly so that it can offer constructive and credible advice.”

In addition to Deutch, the panel’s members include:

  • Stephen Holditch, head of the petroleum engineering department at Texas A&M University and a leader in the field of hydraulic fracturing designs, first at Shell Oil, later as head of his own firm, acquired by Schlumberger in 1997. Today, he is engineering committee chairman at Matador Resources, a Dallas oil and gas exploration company.
  • Mark Zoback, a geophysics professor at Stanford and senior advisor to Baker Hughes, Inc., a Houston-based oilfield services company engaged in hydraulic fracturing. Zoback is chair of GeoMechanics International, a consulting firm that advises on various oil and gas drilling problems and that was acquired by Baker Hughes in 2008.
  • Kathleen McGinty, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality during the Clinton administration and a former secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, now senior vice president of Weston Solutions, Inc., which consults for the oil and gas industry, including leading natural gas driller Chesapeake Energy, and a director of NRG Energy, a Princeton, N.J., wholesale power generation company whose assets include more than two dozen natural gas power companies.
  • Susan Tierney, assistant secretary of the Energy department under President Clinton, now managing principal of Analysis Group, which consults for utilities that use natural gas and for the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, the natural gas pipeline industry association.
  • Daniel Yergin, Pulitzer-Prize winning author of The Prize, a 1991 book about the oil industry, and co-founder, chairman and executive vice president of IHS CERA, originally called Cambridge Energy Research Associatesacquired in 2004 by IHS, an international consulting firm whose clients include the oil, natural gas, coal, power and clean energy communities.

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EWG is a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, DC that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment. http://www.ewg.org