New York's selection of a university geologist and gas-industry consultant to study hydraulic fracturing and earthquakes prompted a drilling opponent to say conclusions of a state agency may be tainted.
Robert Jacobi was picked by the Department of Environmental Conservation for a seismology study as part of its environmental review of the drilling process known as fracking, Lisa King, an agency spokeswoman, said in an e-mail this week. Jacobi is a University at Buffalo professor and has advised drillers for two decades.
“It raises questions about whether the DEC is just following the lead of industry on this or is taking their work seriously,” Kevin Connor, director of the Public Accountability Initiative, a Buffalo-based group that studies ties between business and government, said in an interview. “Is there a pattern of regulatory capture at the DEC?”
It’s the second time an agency in the administration of Governor Andrew Cuomo has picked a consultant on fracking that led to complaints. A 2011 study on the economic effects of fracking was conducted by a firm that says it helps companies secure permits for pipeline and gas-storage projects.
Jacobi, who has taught at the state university for more than 30 years, has advised various gas drillers since 1994, according to a resume released by the university. He has been a senior geology adviser for Pittsburgh-based EQT Corp., a natural gas drilling company, since last year.