Tuesday, June 12, 2012

UPDATED: Ohio Geologist Wickstrom Fired

UPDATE:  From the Athens News:
Ohio's top geologist got sacked at least partly because he publicly released a game-changing Utica deep-shale map and study without vetting his higher-ups, records obtained from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources confirm.
The personnel records, obtained after a public information request fromThe Athens NEWS, suggest that Ohio Geological Survey Chief Larry Wickstrom's higher-ups at the ODNR weren't pleased when the updated Utica study and map drew criticism from "outside scientific reviews."
They also noted that "numerous landowners across southern Ohio were concerned about how the map may be used to devalue potential future mineral rights leasing."
In addition, the documents indicate that ODNR officials felt Wickstrom had been less than objective in dealing with the ongoing deep-shale play in Ohio, and was too closely tied to the oil and gas industry.
Original story:

Back in March we took a look at Ohio's State Geologist and Division Chief, Larry Wickstrom, and heard what he had to say about the shale boom in Ohio.

Now, less than two months after heading up the ODNR's release of a controversial map that highlighted the hot spots of the Utica Shale play, Wickstrom has been canned from his job.

From the Athens News:

IN EARLY MAY, the main author of the ODNR map, Wickstrom, a 29-year employee of Ohio's Division of Geological Survey, lost his job. 
In an email to selected colleagues and contacts on May 21, Wickstrom wrote, "For those who may not yet know, I was removed from the position of Division Chief and State Geologist about one and a half weeks ago. I guess the best way to put it is that I have a different vision of what a state geological survey should do than the current ODNR administration." 
Asked earlier this week about Wickstrom's departure, Bethany McCorkle, deputy chief of communications with the ODNR, issued a prepared statement from ODNR Director James Zehringer. He announced a national search for Wickstrom's replacement, and thanked him for his service. "Larry will continue to provide valuable guidance and assistance to the division and will return to the classified service," Zehringer said. "Larry is a true professional and has offered to assist interim chief Mac Swinford in any way possible to ensure a seamless transition to new management." 
On Monday, The NEWS asked Wickstrom about his departure from the ODNR, a year shy of his 30 years with the agency. Wickstrom said he wasn't ready to discuss his exit from the agency: "I'm just preparing for retirement." 
Wickstrom declined to say whether his leaving the ODNR had anything to do with the redrawn Utica map or his statements about it. "It wasn't any one thing," he said. (This interview came more than a week after Wickstrom's aforementioned email to colleagues and sources.) 
SO DID "THE MAP" RUFFLE industry, legislative and/or administrative feathers enough to result in Wickstrom's firing? 
Who knows?  It's not at all clear how the map might have hurt or benefited all the various role players in Ohio's ongoing oil and gas drama. The cast of characters, and their complex motivations and inter-connections, make the convoluted HBO series, "Game of Thrones," seem like a high-school play. 
Not in any doubt is the fact that Wickstrom's most high-profile performance in the Ohio oil and gas drama – his public release of a game-changing deep-shale study and map – preceded his termination by less than two months. 
Moreover, Wickstrom's affirmative release of the ODNR's Utica core play area map, and the resulting publicity about it, were more remarkable than anything contained in the report. This report almost certainly wasn't news to the big oil and gas companies who eventually will develop most of Ohio's deep-shale resources. They have their own proprietary information, and nothing the state released on this topic was likely to impress or surprise them. 
The main effect of the ODNR report would have been on two classes of people: A) Individuals impressionable enough to be influenced by this sort of information; and B) individuals who would have an interest in trying to manipulate and exploit those individuals in Class A. 
Which raises a question for former Ohio Geological Survey Chief Wickstrom: 
Why release a newly redrawn map of Ohio's most likely areas for productive deep-shale oil and gas drilling when at the same time you're admitting that 1) your information is spotty for areas outside the core area; and 2) the oil and gas industry has far better information than you do?

Read the rest of the article here.

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2 comments:

  1. Followup news article with information from pubic records about Wickstrom's removal as state geologist...

    http://www.athensnews.com/ohio/article-37082-odnr-records-shine-light-on-state-geologists-removal.html

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks, Terry! I saw that article yesterday and hadn't had the chance to update this post yet. Very interesting news, to say the least.

    ReplyDelete