Research exonerating Chesapeake Energy for fugitive methane Under ethics Review

April 8th, 2015 by | 0

Donald Segal, the chairman of the Earth Sciences Depart of Syracuse University is the lead author of a study published recently in Environmental Science & Technology (ES&T). “The findings contradict recent studies that identified a correlation between proximity to natural gas wells and higher methane levels in well water. The new study analyzed more than 11,000 water samples collected by Chesapeake and provided to researchers,” according to

“We found no statistically significant relationship between dissolved methane concentrations in groundwater from domestic water wells and proximity to pre-existing oil or gas wells,” the authors wrote. “Previous analyses used small sample sets compared to the population of domestic wells available, which may explain the difference in prior findings compared to ours.” challenged the methodology and undisclosed ties between Segal and other of the authors of the study. According to,

Industry welcomed the Siegel study, the largest ever evaluating methane in water near gas development, as evidence of the safety of hydraulic fracturing. The production method is driving the gas boom in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale and across the country.

But scientists not involved in the study reacted cautiously because of its methodology, in which Chesapeake sampled treated water and used a methane sampling method that major water labs don’t use.

Further, the study authors failed to divulge the scope of their ties to Chesapeake, including fees the company paid to Siegel to carry out his research. One of the paper’s four co-authors, Bert Smith, worked for Chesapeake during some of the period when the study took place, which also wasn’t disclosed. Smith works for the company today. The paper only acknowledges that Chesapeake provided the dataset.

After questions from InsideClimate News, a spokesman for ES&T said its editors would review whether their disclosure conformed to its ethics guidelines. The peer-reviewed journal requires a paper’s lead author to submit a statement that describes “all potential sources of bias, including affiliations, funding sources, and financial or management relationships, that may constitute conflicts of interest.”


I've been an investigative reporter for more than 40 years and taught journalism at the college level for another 10. I've owned and trained retrievers, pointers and spaniels for about the same amount of time. My love of the outdoors and interest in cooking, eating and libations has been life-long, starting on my family's farm in Indiana and the hearty home-cooked meals there.

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