James Gill's column today is about a corrupt researcher who pocketed $413,000 in compensation from a gas exploration company to produce an academic flavored report that appears to exonerate fracking.
The Public Accountability Initiative duly revealed that (Charles "Chip") Groat is on the board of Plains Exploration and Production, which paid him $413,000 in cash and stock last year. Since 2007 Groat has received $1.6 million in stock alone from the company, according to SEC reports.
So the frackers' clean bill of health is highly suspect, UT research money is down the drain and the Water Institute is dragged collaterally into the mud. Groat himself has paid no price, unless, contrary to the evidence here, he has a sense of shame. The Energy Institute's director, Raymond Orbach, who didn't know about Groat's conflict, now blows it off, claiming that, although it should have been disclosed, it made no difference to the study's conclusions.
Perhaps Orbach is embarrassed by his own failure to check out Groat's background. Orbach also may have failed to read UT's ethics policy, which includes the standard warning against real or apparent impropriety.
Of course they're standing by the study. It does exactly what they wanted. Plains Exploration got what it paid for. Groat gets to keep his money. We're certain this study will be cited by every pro-fracking lobbyist and spokesperson from now until the end of time regardless of this controversy no one will remember. At least Gill was good enough to point it out for us if only just this once.
Unfortunately, in order for Gill to do even this much, he still has to face a subtle counter-argument from his own online editors. See, in the NOLA.com version of this column, it is paired with a tangentially related photograph of some annoying people nobody likes.
That's Sean Lennon standing there (hands on hips and all) at the invisible podium speaking at a press conference regarding something called "Artists Against Fracking" Yes, that's Yoko sitting next to him. Also on stage is actor, Mark Ruffalo. As is always the case, celebrities... especially.. pretentious untalented celebrities like these do far more harm than good to any cause they presume to stick their stupid "Artists Against _____" noses into. Somehow they remain oblivious to this effect they have, though. Perhaps someday they'll figure it out. We can imagine it, anyway.
NOLA.com's editors get it, though. And that's why they've placed this photo here. It's how they bring a slight sense of balance to Gill's column. On the one hand you've got Gill's point: Charles Groat has produced a corrupt and invalid report at the cynical behest of the oil and gas industry that will undoubtedly be used to further their lobbying efforts. On the other hand you've got this photo's point: Look at these pretentious hippies.
Well done, NOLA.com. That is a very robust argument.
Update: Regarding Plains Exploration, looks like they're expanding their investment in Gulf oil fields so they may be hiring a researcher or two to tell you how safe your seafood is any day now.