A staunch advocate of a scientific approach to North America's fracking controversy, Louis LaPierre has resigned as head of the newly-formed New Brunswick Energy Institute after admitting he falsely claimed to have a doctorate in environmental science.
The long-time academic became a lightning rod for opponents to hydraulic fracturing in the province after producing a report that rejected their calls for a moratorium and instead recommended more research be done while companies drill to establish the commercial viability of the province's resource.
New Brunswick sits atop enormous deposits of natural gas trapped in shale, and a handful of companies are hoping to assess the commercial viability of the resource by using hydraulic fracturing, which uses chemically-laced water to blast apart the shale and let the gas escape.
Dr. LaPierre claimed to have a PhD in ecology from the University of Maine, but in fact has a masters degree in environmental education from Maine and a doctorate in education – with a focus on environment – from Walden University, an online school based in Minnesota. He served for more than 30 years in the biology department at the Université de Moncton, then retired and was a member of a number of boards, including New Brunswick Power and the advisory committee of the federal funding agency, Sustainable Development Technology Canada.
In a statement release Wednesday night, Dr. LaPierre said was "taken aback" by the controversy.
"Regardless, during the years, in documents and among various bios, I have misrepresented my academic credentials and have admitted the same to the Université de Moncton," he said. "I take full responsibility for my actions and offer a full apology for the embarrassment this situation has caused to so many that placed their trust in me."
In an interview with the Globe and Mail in Moncton last month, he stressed the need for peer-reviewed science to guide environmental and energy policies. He said the two sides in the debate had inflated the risks, on the one hand, and the assurances of safety on the other.
But critics insist his academic misrepresentations cast doubt on all his work, including his largely favourable message on the risks involved in shale gas development in a report issued earlier this year.
"With respect to the shale gas issue, the fact that LaPierre fraudulently misrepresented his degrees raises questions about his integrity, objectivity and the credibility of his report," said Carla Gunn, a New Brunswick environmental writer.