Bea Roberson: Do the self-proclaimed experts at the CBE really know what they're talking about?

blogimage.jpgCommunities for a Better Environment (CBE) must think Richmond residents aren’t too smart. They seem to believe that we don’t investigate issues, but instead take all “facts” at face value.

In my last article, I discussed that this group isn’t the grassroots organization they purported to be.  The group started in Chicago and the majority of their work is done outside of our native Richmond. In this article, I will explore CBE’s claims of having a resident scientific “expert.”

CBE has offered what they claim is “expert unbiased scientific evidence” to the City Council as they push their environmental agenda against Chevron Modernization Project. The group’s law suit is responsible for the 2009 halt of the project that resulted in 1000 workers losing their jobs. Now the group is urging further delays based on the findings of their supposed “expert,” CBE Senior Scientist Greg Karras. But we deserve to know: how credible is their expert?

My searching shows that Greg Karras received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 1979. He holds no higher degree. Typically “experts” in a field are those holding the highest education attainment in it – a Ph.D.  Even so, his undergraduate area of study is not related to oil, gas, pollution, the environment, or even oil refinery processes.

Having extensive experience would also qualify someone as an expert. According to his curriculum vitae (CV) obtained through testimony in a 2008 court case, Karras has worked for CBE for 30 years and has not been employed by any other entity since graduating college. He has never been a state regulator, worked on creating an EIR for an energy company, or spent time developing refinery processes or parts.

“Senior Scientist” Karras frequently offers expert testimony on environmental cases and claims to “develop science as a tool for community organizing.” In Karras’ biography, on the CBE website, he claims to have “authored or co-authored 20 major scientific publications including CBE reports and formal peer reviewed work.” However, according to his CV, a majority of the reports were CBE-produced and only two have actually been published in a peer review journal. The two that eventually were published were co-authored with actual Ph.Ds.

Having worked around environmental issues for around thirty years, CBE no doubt knows something about them. However, any group stating that Greg Karras is an “expert” or “senior scientist” in any true sense of the word is a dubious. Just as CBE has attempted to discredit findings of scientists findings paid for by Chevron. Maybe they should look to their own conclusions. Their reports are based on an individual who has relied on them solely for work the last thirty years. He lacks the educational credentials to teach as an environmental scientist at a college or even work as one for the state. CBE needs to be honest about the “facts” they present to our city council and public.

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