University at Buffalo rejects call for transparency at Shale Institute

The controversy surrounding the University at Buffalo’s shale institute continued to grow yesterday, with the university’s administration rebuffing a new coalition’s calls for transparency at the institute.

Last month, PAI released a report identifying significant errors and distortions in a report released by the University at Buffalo’s brand-new Shale Resources and Society Institute (SRSI). The report claimed that hydrofracking was becoming safer, but misread its own data in making the claim, copied entire passages from a pro-fracking Manhattan Institute report, and showed clear signs of pro-industry bias and poor scholarship.

A new coalition of UB students and faculty, the UB Coalition for Leading Ethically in Academic Research (UB CLEAR), formed in response to the problems surrounding SRSI and the report and yesterday staged a press conference calling for an investigation into the founding, funding, and hiring process at the recently-launched institute. From the Buffalo News:

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Frackademics: Timothy Considine – Analyst or Advocate?

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.

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New York Times Covers UB Shale Institute Controversy

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.

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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.

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UB Pulls SRSI Website (updated)

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.

Update (5/26): The SRSI site is accessible again, and UB has issued a statement regarding the SRSI report.

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New Report: UB’s Shale Play

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.

Click here for the full report.

Buffalo News and Artvoice are up with coverage of our study and more is on the way.

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New Report: The Great National Fuel Tax Dodge

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.

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