Paper that found higher pollution near fracking sites retracted, findings reversed

“Retraction Watch” recently took note of two environmental papers that were retracted:

One of the studies reported an increased level of air pollution near gas extraction sites, and the other suggested that 2010’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico contributed to air contamination.

According to the corresponding author of both papers, Kim Anderson at Oregon State University, the journal plans to publish new versions of both papers in the next few days. In the case of the fracking paper, the conclusions have been reversed — the original paper stated pollution levels exceeded limits set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for lifetime cancer risk, but the corrected data set the risks below EPA levels.

The fracking paper received some media attention when it was released, as it tapped into long-standing concerns about the environmental dangers of hydraulic fracturing (fracking), which extracts natural gas from the earth.

Readers here are familiar with a growing research consensus that hydraulic fracturing is an intrinsically safe process.

A note of respect

Credit is due Anderson for honesty in a difficult political environment. Acknowledging an “honest spreadsheet error” (which one always diligently tries to avoid because it can happen so easily), she said,

It is important that we stand up and correct the record. This of course is hard as there are many as you are aware that will throw eggs and try to ruin careers, but it is the right thing to do. I very much regret the mistake, but felt it was important to set the record straight, no matter the cost.

Jon Sanders / Research Editor and Senior Fellow, Regulatory Studies

Jon Sanders studies regulatory policy, a veritable kudzu of invasive government and unintended consequences. As director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, Jo...