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N.Y. Lawmakers Decry DoE’s Unbalanced Fracking Panel

For Immediate Release: 
Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Elected officials from across New York state voiced their disapproval of the U.S. Department of Energy’s advisory board on natural gas drilling, demanding that Secretary of Energy Steven Chu correct the glaring imbalance on the panel he appointed.

Six of the seven members of the Secretary’s advisory board, which has also been heavily criticized by health and environmental organizations, religious leaders and individual citizens from around the country, have financial ties to the oil and gas industry. Chu named the group to advise him on safety issues related to hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” the technology that has triggered a gas drilling boom across the country.

“Those whose way of life is at stake deserve a seat at the table where decisions are made,” the lawmakers wrote. “In addition, six of the seven subcommittee members, including panel chair John Deutch, have current financial ties to the natural gas and oil industry. Their inherent conflicts of interest cannot help but undermine the panel’s credibility to study the potential threat of fracking.”

New York has been a center of the debate around fracking, which Congress exempted from key federal environmental laws.

The 58 officials who signed the letter represent nearly every corner of the state – from New York City to Buffalo to St. Lawrence county in the north.

Many New York communities have taken strong stands against hydraulic fracturing in recent months. Buffalo banned fracking within city limits in February, and local officials in New York City, Albany and Cooperstown have supported efforts designed to protect drinking water from drilling-related contamination.

Unlike the Environmental Protection Agency, which is in the midst of its own study of fracking safety, the Department of Energy made no attempt to review financial disclosure records prior to selecting the members of its panel. In a letter responding to more than 100 community organizations that raised the conflict of interest issue, the Department of Energy did not address industry’s dominance of the panel.

EWG’s senior oil and gas analyst Dusty Horwitt, in a report released yesterday following a year-long investigation, uncovered evidence that the EPA had concluded as far back as 1987 that fracking had contaminated drinking water in West Virginia, challenging industry’s claim that fracking has never been known to pollute drinking water.

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