Revisions will not be made to UT fracking study until independent review completed

Bobby Blanchard

While the independent review of UT’s fracking study is still ongoing, University officials said they do not intend to update the study with an acknowledgment that geology professor Charles Groat is a paid board member of Plains Exploration & Production Co., a company that performs hydraulic fracturing.

UT encountered criticism last week after the Public Accountability Initiative, a nonprofit watchdog group, reported Groat, the fracking study’s lead author, and his involvement with the company. University officials said they do not plan to amend the study online.

“It would raise more questions if we began to edit the report that exists online before that review is complete,” UT spokeswoman Tara Doolittle said. “It would also be inappropriate to remove a published report from the public view, particularly given the questions that have been raised about it.”

According to the watchdog group’s report released last Tuesday, Groat made $413,900 through Plains Exploration & Production Co. in 2011. Since then, the University has by criticized by the Public Accountability Initiative and various Internet blogs for not including Groat’s board position on his fracking report. The study concluded that fracking does not impose an environmental threat to groundwater.

Provost and executive vice president Steven Leslie announced Wednesday that the University would hire an external, independent team of experts to review the report. Doolittle said the panel has not yet been selected.

“We are still working on the panel,” Doolittle said. “Once the members are identified, I’m sure we’ll note that in some way on the Energy Institute site, but we will not alter the content of the report while the review is being conducted.”

Despite the plans to review, Doolittle said the University and Energy Institution do not think the report is flawed.

“Aside from the issue of disclosure, which has been widely reported, we have received no evidence that the research itself is flawed,” Doolittle said. “That will be for the independent review to decide.”

Groat has not returned The Daily Texan’s requests for comment.