Friday, June 22, 2012

The Ohio State Geologist and Another Case of False Citation

I understand that the fracking/shale gas issue is controversial and emotional for people.  But that never excuses those who falsely cite a news story to back up an otherwise unsubstantiated claim.  The other day I told the tale of a tweet that claimed a news story said most of the job growth in Ohio was due to shale gas development when in fact the story made no such claim. Today I came across this blurb in site called Plunderbund:
Ohio’s state geologist, in charge of determining link between fracking waste disposal and earthquakes was fired by the Department of Natural Resources? Oh, and the administration’s explanation doesn’t hold up to scrutiny? You don’t say…
OK. First, while the firing of the state geologist does open up all sorts of questions, the suggestion that it was due to his "determining link between fracking waste disposal and earthquakes" -great writing - is in no way supported by the story in the Columbus Dispatch Plunderbund links to! I'll allow that the link is not in that particular line but a casual reader could think the link is indeed supporting the claim, particularly if they don't follow it.  That is what I avoid here, if I speculate I'll tell you that what I'm doing and if I cite something it will directly correlate to what I write.

What the Dispatch story does report has been recounted else, but it's worth going over since there seems to be more going on (although we don't know if there is). In any case, there is suggestion by some that it was because he was too close to the industry, rather than uncovering something negative about them. Here are the facts so far:
1) After a review, Larry Wickstrom was removed from leadership (not fired from the survey) because ' he repeatedly failed to notify his bosses “in matters that would set or significantly impact state policy.”' Specifically he was accused of presenting a new geological map to an Ohio Oil and Gas Association meeting before revealing it to Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
2) The map redrew the boundaries of the estimated core area for the most productive oil and gas exploration, particular related to the Utica Shale, in the state.
3) Landowners outside the new core area are concerned that it could devalue future mineral rights leasing.
4) There were claims by the state that outside reviewers  criticized the map, although the one contacted by the Dispatch denied doing so.
5) Other stories have indicated that both Wickstrom and others felt there was a lack of data points in the region moved outside of the core area.

What about earthquakes and fracking waste removal? According to the Dispatch:
Wickstrom also was faulted for discussing leases to mine salt with Cargill Inc. without including his supervisors and for failing to quickly notify Natural Resources administrators about a Friday, Jan. 13, earthquake in the Youngstown area. 
Not exactly being punished for whistleblowing about a fracking/quake link.

Look, I understand that people have real concerns about fracking, I do myself. And like many other citizens I am pissed about the lack of oversight and cozy relations between politicians and industry. But these concerns can only based on actual evidence or data.  Spinning and shoehorning every bit of scientific data and every news story to fit a per-conceived narrative is not good science or responsible journalism. Sure it's good propaganda to preach to the converted, but it undermines your credibility with those still trying to honestly figure out what is going on and form an opinion.

I'll have more commentary on the Ohio state geologist fooferall when I find out more.

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