UB Shale Institute Story Continues to Develop

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 responded with a late Friday statement which promised a more extensive examination of the SRSI report.
  • The report’s lead author, Timothy Considine, has taken to the Washington Times and the Laura Ingraham show (no link) to defend his work. Considine told Ingraham that the university will be releasing a new version of the report with a few “typos” fixed.
  • The SUNY Chancellor, Nancy Zimpher, was asked about the report by Susan Arbetter on Capitol Pressroom on Friday, and said she asked UB to “counter” PAI’s analysis of the SRSI report. Zimpher also defended maintaining the anonymity of research funding sources.

The SRSI report is still getting traction in influential corners. Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Krancer touted the study in testimony on Capitol Hill last week, attaching it to his testimony at a hearing on hydraulic fracturing and “red tape” convened by the House Oversight Committee. Krancer pointed to the study as proof that Pennsylvania’s regulation of fracking is effective and well-managed.

Krancer appears in PAI’s report because he oversaw a reported politicization of the inspections process in early 2011, when the Corbett administration was just taking office. From our report:

In March 2011, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published a leaked memo from a deputy of DEP secretary Michael Krancer that directed all field inspectors to seek pre-approval from higher-ups before filing NOVs. Krancer’s predecessor as DEP head, John Hanger, stated that the new policy was “exceptionally unwise” and would “crater public confidence in inspections and oversight of the industry” by giving direct control over NOV issuance to appointees of Governor Tom Corbett, whose election campaign was supported largely by financial contributions from the oil and gas industry.

A coalition of groups responded by calling on Corbett to end the new policy. According to former DEP official George Jugovic, “It was viewed, both within and outside the agency, as politicizing actions that were typically properly made by trained inspections staff. For [Krancer] to exercise political control over notices of violation by field inspectors was just ludicrous.” Jugovic is now director of environmental advocacy group Penn Future.

Krancer eventually retracted the order. Still, the memos offer strong evidence that the current DEP administration is hostile to regulation and interested in minimizing the number of NOVs filed. This political interference may have had a significant effect on the number of environmental events identified by inspectors, and should have been acknowledged in the report.

1. Krancer cracked down on the Notice of Violation filing process
2. SRSI and Considine found a decline in the filing of Notices of Violation and used it to suggest that fracking was getting safer
3. Krancer pointed to SRSI’s finding as proof that Pennsylvania’s regulatory process is working.


Here’s what Krancer told the House Oversight Committee last week (here’s the testimony he submitted, only partial — no link for the full testimony yet):

On May 15, 2012, the State University of New York at Buffalo’s Shale Resources and Society Institute released a comprehensive study which found that Pennsylvania’s program and regulations have been quite effective at reducing the impacts per well drilled and that there is a compelling case that Pennsylvania state oversight of oil and gas regulation has been effective. The SUNY Buffalo study was extremely comprehensive and considered the period of 2008, when unconventional gas exploration was in its early stages in Pennsylvania, through mid-2011. The study found, among other things, that environmental incidences declined 60 percent between 2008 and August 2011. This, says the report, is “a rather notable indicator of improvement by the industry and oversight by the regulators.” A copy of the SUNY Buffalo Study is attached hereto as an Exhibit. This, of course, reinforces, confirms and brings forward in time the conclusions of the 2010 STRONGER report which, as mentioned before, concluded that the Pennsylvania program is well-managed, professional and meeting its program objectives