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Newsmonger: Hays Restoration Group sues city, Retaliation in exoneration case, Review panel recommends withdrawing UT fracking study

Photo: Michael Barajas, License: N/A

Michael Barajas

Mike Ware, the attorney handling the exoneration case for the Innocence Project of Texas, attended Friday's hearing. He insists Stephanie's custody battle has no direct bearing on the exoneration case, saying, "The four women I represent have nothing to do with this family drama, although they were victims of it back when the false accusations were made."

Ware added: "I am not surprised that Stephanie was able to prevail agains the accusations made against her by her father, simply because his accusations against her appeared to be so patently false."

Review panel recommends withdrawing UT fracking study

A review panel has recommended the University of Texas withdraw its highly-publicized study saying fracking isn't tied to groundwater contamination.

The study released early this year by UT's Energy Institute declared that there was little to no evidence of a direct connection between groundwater contamination and fracking, the process of shooting water, sand, and chemicals deep underground to break up natural gas-bearing shale formations.

UT's Energy Institute endured a serious black eye this summer when the Buffalo-based Public Accountability Initiative, a corporate and academic watchdog group, discovered that lead report author Chip Groat failed to disclose his lucrative ties to oil and gas. SEC filings show that as a board member with Houston-based oil and gas drillers Plains Exploration and Production (PXP) – a company with a serious interest in fracking – Groat since 2006 has received more over $400,000 in cash payouts and over $1.3 million in company stock. In 2011,

Groat's compensation from PXP, a mixture of cash and stock, came in at $413,900, more than double his 2012 UT salary of $173,000. His total PXP stock holdings are valued at $1.7 million.

The review panel found Groat was guilty of "very poor judgment coupled with inattentiveness to the challenges of conducting research in an environment inevitably fraught with conflict of interest concerns."

Though there's no evidence Groat intentionally misrepresented any of the study's findings, reviewers also noted the report's summary and accompanying press release were "inappropriately selective," painting a more glowing, industry-friendly picture than the more nuanced findings of the 400-plus page report: that while there may not be a direct link between fracturing shale and groundwater contamination, researchers still cited a number of other steps in the process that could put groundwater at risk, like surface spills of toxic flow-back or well blowouts.

Perhaps most importantly, the reviewers criticized that much of the report, titled a "Fact-Based Regulation for Environmental Protection in Shale Gas Development," only drew from literature surveys, incident reports, and conjecture, adding, "It should be stressed that the term 'fact-based' would not apply to such analysis" since little by way of scientific data was presented in the first place.

Both Groat and Energy Institute director Raymond Orbach have resigned from their posts.

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