State Geologist Told to Shut the Frack Up

Ronald Bailey reports that the New York State Department of Education is muzzling the state’s “top geologist,” Langhorne “Taury” Smith, because he dared to question environmentalist attacks on the use of hydraulic fracturing (aka “fracking”) to extract natural gas from shale deposits.  This prompted a green backlash which, in turn, cause the state education department to bar Smith from talking with reporters.  As the Albany Times Union editorialized:

One might reasonably assume that the state’s top staff geologist would have some relevant thoughts about drilling for natural gas. But good luck finding out what’s on Langhorne B. Smith Jr.’s mind, now that the state has muzzled him.

If only irony were an alternative energy source. Here’s the state Education Department ­— an agency responsible for fostering knowledge — barring Mr. Smith from talking to reporters after his comments on gas drilling caused a backlash among environmentalists — who normally are the first to cry out when politics takes precedence over science.

We don’t particularly agree with Mr. Smith on a few key points, either. But shutting down an informed voice is absolutely the wrong thing for the government to do, and for environmentalists to support, if only in their failure to denounce it.

This editorial is particularly notable because the Times Union has also been critical of fracking.  I must admit I’m not up-to-speed on the fracking debate, and have no opinion on whether environmentalist charges are well-founded or exaggerated.  But I am of the opinion that limiting the ability of state experts to discuss the matter publicly is no way to find the truth.