A Primer on the Center for Environmental HealthSource: Energy In Depth
By: Randy Hildreth
December 4, 2014
Reports have been circulating that a group of researchers affiliated with the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) are pushing a new report on impacts from oil and gas development, to be published Friday in Reviews on Environmental Health.
But a quick look at CEH and their blatantly anti-oil and gas public comments should cloud any notion that research associated with their organization could possibly be construed as impartial.
About the Center for Environmental Health
With offices in California and New York City, CEH is a nationally focused organization that aims to “identify and eliminate the toxic chemicals that pose the greatest threats to your family’s health” and states that “[w]e give you tools to protect your family, we support communities fighting for clean air and water, and we take legal action – all to protect you from toxic chemicals in air, water, food, and in products you and your children use every day.” CEH has taken a particular focus on hydraulic fracturing, and has made it one of their top campaigns. In fact, the organization’s “CEH Action” page on hydraulic fracturing leaves little room for error in understanding where they stand on energy development. CEH clearly states that they are:
“[W]orking in New York, California, and throughout the country for protections from fracking that “Impose moratoriums or bans that delay fracking unless thorough studies, including comprehensive health impact assessments, demonstrate it can be done safely and rules are in place to ensure safe practices.”
To drive home the point, the organization included a call to “support legislative moratoriums and bans” in a fact sheet intended to be used in lobbying efforts directed at New York state legislators. This fact sheet also made recommendations on “pending legislation to support,” which includes the suspension of permits for drilling wells and the prohibition of hydraulic fracturing in oil and gas extraction.
They also joined with anti-energy groups, including Food & Water Watch, the Center for Biological Diversity and Bill McKibben’s 350.org, to demand that the Obama administration “put a halt to hydraulic fracturing.”
But perhaps more concerning, CEH’s research director Caroline Cox also worked with “ban fracking” group Global Community Monitor (GCM) to produce bogus air quality samples. GCM is a well-known anti-fracking organization, which collects ‘bucket’ samples in canisters lined with Tedlar bags, and claims that hydraulic fracturing causes high concentrations of volatile compounds to go into the air. Local GCM organizers call themselves the “Bucket Brigade.” You can read more about their debunked studies here and here.
In a press release announcing the Bucket Brigade study that Cox worked on, CEH said the group “supports the current New York State fracking moratorium,” which has been in place six years. The press released also granted a quote to anti-energy group Catskill Mountainkeeper as saying the moratorium should remain in place and eventually become a “statewide ban on fracking.”
CEH has also targeted their efforts to impose “moratoriums or bans,” at social media campaigns. Facebook posts from the organization are very transparent as to where they stand on the issue.
The organization also took part in a campaign similar to the one done by “ban fracking,” activist Yoko Ono’s Artists Against Fracking. CEH promoted a “Don’t Frack My Mom” contest, encouraging their followers to create shareable Facebook memes for the chance to win a prize for best caption.
Previous History of Anti-Oil and Gas Research
The report we expect to be released this week isn’t the first time we’ve seen this type of biased research from CEH. In fact, a previously released report called “Toxic and Dirty Secrets: The Truth about Fracking and Your Family’s Heath,” has been the subject of Energy In Depth analysis. That report was deemed to be yet another compilation of debunked claims from previously flawed reports specifically tailored for the press.
As transparent as CEH is in regard to their positions on energy development, and efforts to impose “moratoriums or bans” on hydraulic fracturing, it is surprising that the organization could be taken seriously as impartial by a research journal. While research and academic pursuit on the issue of oil and gas development is a welcome endeavor, we are not convinced that CEH will apply those standards to an industry it obviously opposes.
But when you take a look at the journal where this report is being published, things start to make a bit more sense.
Let’s take a look at Reviews on Environmental Health, and Editor-In-Chief David Carpenter.
Reviews on Environmental Health (REH) is a quarterly peer-reviewed journal that “aims to fill the need for rapid publication of specialized comprehensive review articles on hot topics in the field of environmental health.”
A deeper look at the publication’s leadership, specifically Editor-In-Chief David O. Carpenter, brings up questions as to the publication’s credibility.
Earlier this year, Carpenter was the lead-author on an infamous “Bucket Brigade” study spearheaded by Global Community Monitor. The results were roundly debunked, but GCM’s focus isn’t science and data. By their own admission, “The Bucket Brigade is not a scientific experiment. Our focus is on organizing. We use science, but only in the service of organizing.”
Even though he has said that he is “not religiously opposed to fracking,” Carpenter leads the Concerned Health Professionals of New York, an anti-fracking organization that has sent outmultiple letters to Governor Cuomo asking for a moratorium on fracking in New York. He has also claimed that “fracking in the way it’s practiced right now in the US – at least in these five states – is extraordinary dangerous” and that oil and gas companies are “careless.” This is contrary to the statements from scientists, regulators and senior officials from the Obama Administration who have repeatedly stated that hydraulic fracturing is fundamentally safe.
But Carpenter has other things he’d like to ban, namely wifi, which he would like banned from schools. He also holds a strong grudge against sushi, stating that “[p]eople think they’re improving their health by eating sushi…but they are in fact poisoning themselves.” And way back in 2004, he was part of a Pew-funded study on Scottish salmon, claiming it could cause cancer. He also stated that “women should avoid eating farmed salmon at all, from the day they are born through menopause,” and that “one should avoid farmed salmon like the plague. Our results indicate elevated cancer risk from one meal (of farmed salmon) or even less per month.” But according to one local editorial board, “Dr David Carpenter himself has admitted that Pew Charitable Trust were on a mission. “There maybe some legitimacy,” he said, “in saying the reason they chose to fund this study was that they had another — agenda well beyond the health effects.”
All in all, we question the credibility of any study published by Reviews on Environmental Health. With an editor-in chief such as Carpenter at the helm, it seems very clear that this “peer-reviewed” journal is more interested in furthering ideology than the pursuit of truth. This may be the reason why the anti-oil and gas Center for Environmental Health chose them for publication.
We’re waiting anxiously to see the report and will offer our analysis once it’s published.