Over the past few days Ohio’s fracking advocates (frack-vocates?) have been promoting a ‘study‘ claiming 65,000 jobs will be created or supported by expanded oil and gas development.
The study was produced by the Ohio Shale Coalition “a partnership of energy interests spearheaded by the Ohio Chamber of Commerce”. It’s unclear which ‘energy interests’ helped fund the study, but I think it’s fair to assume it involved Oil and Gas industry groups and possibly Oil and Gas companies.
It’s no secret that the Chamber and the energy industry are close allies. Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon, for example, is the Keynote speaker at the Ohio Chamber’s Annual Meeting in May. These ties may make business sense to both groups, but it also means neither can be considered an unbiased observer in the debate over expanded fracking in Ohio. And while their funding and promotion of this study doesn’t necessarily invalidate the data, it certainly does require a warning label.
Even more important than identifying the funding, a report like this can only be classified as unbiased if the reader can fully trust that the researchers who produced it are unbiased.
Five people are listed on the “Study Team” that produced this report including Dr. Robert Chase who is identified as “Chair and Benedum Professor Department of Petroleum Engineering and Geology Marietta College”. The study fails to mention Dr. Chase’s other jobs.
Dr. Chase is also a member of the Ohio Oil and Gas Commission which “hears the appeals of Ohio residents who don’t want drilling on their properties.” According to the Dispatch’s Spencer Hunt he also “works as a consultant for landowner groups that negotiate terms and payments for the mineral-rights leases” which means “he gets a percentage of what the companies pay the landowners” whenever the landowner signs a lease.
If you think this relationship between Dr. Chase and the Oil and Gas Industry sounds a bit too cozy, you’re not the only one. The director of the Oil and Gas Commission has asked the Ohio Ethics Commission to “determine whether Chase’s business activities present a conflict of interest” with his membership on the Ohio Oil and Gas Commission.
Environmental advocates are not big fans of Dr. Chase either. Questioning his position on the Commission given his industry ties. Again from the Dispatch:
Elisa Young, a southeastern Ohio environmental advocate, said Chase should not be on the commission.
“He’s profiting from this industry when they sign these leases,” Young said. “I don’t have any confidence at all in this person.”
There is a lot of information being released by people on both sides of the fracking issue. And we certainly encourage non-partisan, unbiased, scholarly research on the subject. But there are a number of important factors involving funding and at least one of the authors that makes it difficult to put this study into that category.