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Energy secretary nominee draws criticism for study

| Friday, March 22, 2013, 9:30 p.m.
REUTERS
Nominee for Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz listens to U.S. President Barack Obama in the East Room of the White House in Washington, March 4, 2013. REUTERS/Larry Downing (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS HEADSHOT)

WASHINGTON — President Obama's nominee for Energy secretary is drawing criticism for leading a study that minimized risks of natural gas while failing to disclose that some of its researchers had financial ties to the industry.

The nominee, Ernest Moniz, is head of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Energy Institute, which issued a report in 2011 that said the environmental risks of increased drilling and production “are challenging but manageable.”

A report co-author had agreed to take a position with Talisman Energy Inc. when the report was released. Another researcher was on the board of Cheniere Energy Inc., which is building an export facility for liquefied natural gas.

“The public should have been informed that MIT's natural gas study was written by representatives of the oil and gas industry,” said Kevin Connor, director of the Public Accountability Initiative, a research group in Buffalo, N.Y., that is critical of the use of hydraulic fracturing for gas and compiled the details of the industry ties. “Aren't there academics there not on the payroll of gas companies?”

It's unlikely this disclosure will harm Moniz's chances of confirmation.

“The president has made clear that natural gas has a central role to play in our nation's energy future,” Clark Stevens, a White House spokesman, said in an email. “Dr. Moniz's work at MIT demonstrates his ability to work collaboratively with a wide spectrum of stakeholders on a broad range of energy issues.”

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