MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- A member of the West Virginia University Board of Governors said Friday he wants assurances that conflicts of interest are avoided if WVU creates a gas drilling research center.
Board member Charles Vest expressed his concerns Friday as WVU General Counsel William Hutchens outlined Senate Bill 522. Vest is president of the Washington, D.C.-based National Academy of Engineering and a former president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The bill would create the WVU Shale Research, Education, Policy and Economic Development Center. It has already cleared the House and Senate education committees and is now headed to the finance committees.
It's designed to let WVU partner with industry, universities and government agencies on research, and to help establish best practices for the environment, safety, business and health.
Sponsored by Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, the bill also says it's aimed at improving industry transparency and protecting the environment.
However, "It's going to be full of temptations," warned Vest, who insisted that WVU researchers "must remain independent."
WVU President James Clements agreed, saying that while he's proud of the work scientists do and eager to see research grow, firewalls must be created and conflicts avoided.
Hutchens called the center a logical fit for an institution in the heart of the Marcellus shale field. He said he would relay the board's concerns.But, he added, "I assure you those discussions have occurred all along the way."