Businesses in controversial industries often turn to the academy for evidence exculpating them for the harm that they do, with trade groups funding “scholarly” reports claiming that their products and business practices are safe for the public. In much the same way that Big Tobacco funded research claiming that secondhand smoke is not harmful, natural gas associations such as the Marcellus Shale Coalition have been paying for research that exaggerates fracking’s economic benefits and downplays its environmental risks both by funding individual studies and by donating to myriad shale gas research institutions, such as the University at Buffalo’s Shale Resources and Society Institute and the University at Wyoming’s Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy.
The New York Times published an article today on the growing controversy surrounding the UB Shale Resources and Society Institute (SRSI) report on horizontal hydraulic fracturing, which was sparked in part by PAI’s analysis of the report. From the article:
A report from a new institute at the State University at Buffalo asserting that state oversight has made natural gas drilling safer is causing tumult on campus and beyond, with critics arguing that the institute is biased toward industry and could undercut the university’s reputation.
The study, issued on May 15, said that state regulation in Pennsylvania had made drilling there far safer and that New York rules were even more likely to ensure safety once drilling gets under way in the state.
But a government watchdog group quickly raised questions about the study’s data and the authors’ ties to the oil and gas industry. And a newly formed group of professors and students is calling for a broader inquiry into the genesis of the institute, which issued the report only weeks after its creation was announced in April.
Read the full article here.
A SUNY Fredonia spokesperson had the best quote in the article:
“When a corporation gives you a gift, you want to say thank you,” said Michael R. Barone, a spokesman for SUNY Fredonia.
PAI’s analysis of the University at Buffalo Shale Resources and Society Institute (SRSI) report on fracking’s environmental impacts has been covered in a number of media outlets since its release two weeks ago, and the report’s lead author, the University, and the chancellor of SUNY have all responded in some form or another.
The University at Buffalo Shale Resources and Society Institute (SRSI), the subject of the analysis we released yesterday, has password-protected its website as of this morning. Notably, the SUNY Fredonia Shale Resources Institute also pulled its website recently after negative attention from Artvoice. Saved copies of most of the site’s pages are below.
Today PAI released an analysis of the University at Buffalo Shale Resources and Society Institute report “Environmental Impacts During Marcellus Shale Gas Drilling.” The UB report claimed that fracking is becoming less environmentally risky, based on a review of Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection inspections data. We found that data in the report said just the opposite; that the risk of major environmental accidents had actually increased during the period studied. The report’s methodology was also highly questionable (including the decision to copy entire passages from a pro-fracking Manhattan Institute report).
We also found that the UB report’s authors have extensive ties to the natural gas industry, which might have something to do with their remarkably sunny conclusions about the safety of fracking.
We released a new report today on tax dodging by National Fuel Gas, Buffalo’s gas utility, showing that the company has dodged over $400 million in state and federal income taxes over the past three years. National Fuel
Go here to check out the report, the Buffalo News article, and the one-page handout.