New York state’s tortuous, interminable process of deciding whether or not to approve fracking continues; it slowly lifts one foot out of molasses, considers it for an hour or two, and then places it down again with a squelch one centimeter in front of the other foot. The last microstep we reported on was actually a step backward, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) moved to restart the state’s analysis of fracking’s health effects.

But now a real step: New York has hired a geologist to conduct a study of the seismological repercussions of fracking. As you may recall, drilling into shale and breaking it apart with high-pressure water has been linked to earthquakes. So the state is looking into that, since the very last thing New York wants is to be any more like California. The man hired for the job, to ensure that New York doesn’t crumble into the sea if it allows fracking? A guy who used to work for fracking companies.

From Bloomberg:

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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. Jacobi is a University at Buffalo professor and has advised drillers for two decades. …

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.

But don’t worry, guys: “Jacobi said his EQT role doesn’t pose a conflict with the state work.”

“I was contracted by EQT to provide consulting services relating to their geology program, projects and initiatives,” Jacobi said in an e-mail. “In the same manner, I was hired as a consultant to provide services for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.”

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Jacobi has also worked for opponents of fracking and, according to the DEC, is “considered the premier geologist on fault lines in New York state.” Fair enough.

This isn’t the first time the state has been criticized for selecting a consultant with ties to the industry. As Bloomberg notes, a 2011 study on the economic impacts of fracking was done by a firm that works to secure permits for gas companies.

But that was about three steps ago. Old news. In just another few months or years or decades, all of this will be behind us and we can celebrate a decision on fracking, whatever it may be, assuming that the state hasn’t already crumbled into the sea through the sheer inexorable entropy the universe.

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