DEC was wise to choose Jacobi for vital research

A recent article reported on the criticism leveled at geologist and University at Buffalo professor Robert Jacobi, selected by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation “to study the links between hydraulic fracturing and earthquakes.” The criticism focused on the fact that Jacobi also works for EQT Corp., a company involved in recovering hydrocarbons from shale formations using hydraulic fracturing. Critics claim a conflict here.

One critic wondered if the DEC hired Jacobi to give a “free pass” to the oil and gas industry. This criticism might be valid if Jacobi was writing the regulations for the issue he was asked to study. As it is, Jacobi was hired to provide objective evidence and conclusions, which may turn out to be negative or positive with respect to hydraulic fracturing.

I’ve known Jacobi for many years. He is an objective scientist and teacher, well thought of for his expertise in New York geology and for his knowledge of the natural fracturing that exists in its rocks. In fact, it’s his work over the past 15 years that interpreted and ground-truthed the multitude of natural fractures crisscrossing the state as revealed by satellite data. Industry and government, who sought out Jacobi, value his scientific objectivity and experience. This may be a conflict to some, but it is a case of institutions consulting one of the best experts available.

It should not be assumed that scientists become mouthpieces for whomever is paying their salary. This can occur, but most geologists are simply interested in discovering the objective truth of the earth processes they study. The issue of hydraulic fracturing is too important to be left to those whose knowledge of the subject is only as deep as the Internet blogs they consult. The DEC should be congratulated for having chosen Jacobi to research this issue.

Cary P. Kuminecz