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Scientists Protest Makeup of DoE Natural Gas Panel

For Immediate Release: 
Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Twenty eight scientists from 22 universities in 13 states have signed a letter objecting to the makeup of an industry-dominated advisory panel named by Energy Secretary Steven Chu to examine safety and environmental issues linked to natural gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”

The letter follows a similar letter sent to Chu on July 13 by 109 community and environmental organizations that also criticized the one-sided composition of the panel. Both letters point out six of the seven members of the Energy Advisory Board Natural Gas Subcommittee have current financial ties to the natural gas industry.

“In our work, we believe in reducing individual biases in evaluating the merits of scientific or technological ideas,” the scientists wrote to Secretary Chu. “The current panel does not meet this standard.”

The chairman of the panel, John Deutch, was paid more than $1.4 million by two leading natural gas companies, Schlumberger Ltd. and Cheniere Energy, from 2006 to 2009 alone. Deutch serves on the board of directors of Cheniere Energy.

The Department of Energy appointed the advisory board while the Environmental Protection Agency is in the midst of a multi-year study of the environmental and human health impacts of the horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing.

Unlike the Department of Energy, the EPA took steps to reduce the possibility of financial conflicts of interest on its own Science Advisory Board, including examining financial records of prospective board members.

The Department of Energy is expected to release its draft recommendations tomorrow, August 11.

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