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Disapproval of Fracking Panel Grows

For Immediate Release: 
Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Religious leaders, community representatives, environmental groups and health advocates from 100 organizations representing 2 million people in 13 states have united to protest the U.S. Energy Department's decision to set up an advisory panel on hydraulic fracturing dominated by people with financial ties to the natural gas industry.

These individuals and organizations have signed a letter calling on Secretary of Energy Steven Chu to replace the panel's chair, John Deutch, a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and current energy company board member, and to include independent experts and representatives from communities affected by hydraulic fracturing and shale gas development.As Environmental Working Group reported in May, six of the panel's seven members have substantial financial connections to the natural gas and oil industry.

"More and more Americans from all walks of life and from every part of the country are objecting to the conflicted and biased nature of this panel," said Dusty Horwitt, EWG Senior Counsel. "But while their voices are getting louder, the administration remains silent."

Controversy about hazardous pollution associated with hydraulic fracturing, often called fracking, has escalated as natural gas companies have begun deploying a new gas drilling method called high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing near communities across the country from the Barnett Shale in Texas to the vast Marcellus Shale formation that extends from upstate New York to Kentucky.

A number of influential faith-based groups and community leaders have entered the debate on the benefits and hazards of hydraulic fracturing. Some, including Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton, who leads more than 800 United Methodist congregations in western Pennsylvania, have signed the letter to Secretary Chu.

Last month, Environmental Working Group submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to learn how the Obama administration picked panel members. The administration has acknowledged receipt of the request but has yet to respond substantively.

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