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SUNY Buffalo Shuts Down Its Frack-Happy Shale Institute

Environment  (tags: animals, climate-change, CO2emissions, conservation, destruction, ecosystems, endangered, environment, FRACKING, globalwarming, habitatdestruction, healthconditions, nature, politics, pollution, research, science, Sustainabililty )

- 2011 days ago -
This week SUNY Buffalo's president announced his decision to shutter its publisher, the school's own Shale Resources and Society Institute (SRSI).

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Kit B (276)
Wednesday November 21, 2012, 9:29 am
(Photo Illustration: Dave Gilson; Tyler Olson/Shutterstock.)

Remember that questionable study put out by the State University at Buffalo earlier this year, the one that claimed Pennsylvania was doing a good job at regulating the fracking industry? This week SUNY Buffalo's president announced his decision to shutter its publisher, the school's own Shale Resources and Society Institute (SRSI).

University president Satish Tripathi did not mince words when it came to explaining why. "Conflictsóboth actual and perceivedócan arise between sources of research funding and expectations of independence when reporting research results," he wrote in a public letter released to the university community on Monday. "This, in turn, impacted the appearance of independence and integrity of the institute's research."

In May, the study released by the university's newly created institute claimed that the likelihood of natural gas industry violations in the Marcellus region had decreased between 2008 and 2011, a tribute to Pennsylvania's regulating efforts. In fact, the rate of major environmental accidents increased by 36 percent, as later pointed out by corporate and government watchdog, the Public Accountability Initiative (PAI).

The PAI's followup was also quick to highlight passages patently lifted from the authors' previous reports, the study's failure to disclose the authors' relationships to the natural gas industry, a fudged peer-review process, and blatant "industry spin." In the days following the PAI report, Timothy Considine, one of the study authors, told the Washington Times he stood by his interpretation of the numbers, while the university promised to "examine all relevant concerns." After an investigation requested by the school's Board of Trustees and a 10,000-plus signature petition led by faculty and students calling for the institute's closure, it now appears that SUNY Buffalo has taken down the institute's old online domain for good.

Tripathi's decision to close the SRSI came in the midst of increased scrutiny over industry-funded academic reports. Last month, the industry-backed Marcellus Shale Coalition canceled its funding of a Penn State hydraulic fracturing study after faculty members declined to take part. The project's earlier publications had been co-written by former Penn State professor Tim Considine, one of the co-authors of the SUNY report. The University of Texas at Austin has also launched a probe into its controversial research on groundwater contaminationóthough the chair of that investigation previously served almost two decades as a ConocoPhillips boardmember.

Is this a small victory for academic accountability? Sure, an "institute" did break under the weight of incisive coverage and public criticism. But maybe the SRSI's brief lifespan had more to do with industry deadlines than anything else. The SRSI met its end a week-and-a-half shy of New York state's due date for a decision about regulating hydraulic fracturing within its bordersóand if the state fails to meet this deadline on November 29, it'll have to draft a new set of regulations and usher in another round of public comments. Yesterday, Governor Cuomo announced that the deadline is likely to be extended (again), which could push the decision to end the state's fracking moratorium back several months. That, as Bloomberg points out, could mean it's already "too late" for New York to snag some of the Marcellus' fading winnings. In the end, the Shale Institute just might not have been worth the effort. At least they gave it a college try.

óBy Sydney Brownstone | Mother Jones Magazine |

Past Member (0)
Wednesday November 21, 2012, 4:15 pm

Frans Badenhorst (582)
Thursday November 22, 2012, 12:06 am
good the..thanks for posting Kit

Giana Peranio-paz (398)
Thursday November 22, 2012, 12:45 am
Thanks for the post Kit.

Christeen A (369)
Thursday November 22, 2012, 2:22 pm
Yea. Let's keep taking a stand on the no more fracking issue. Thank you.

Petra M (259)
Thursday November 22, 2012, 2:34 pm

Aletta Kraan (146)
Thursday November 22, 2012, 5:22 pm
Thanks, great !!!1

Seth E (81)
Thursday November 22, 2012, 11:24 pm
This is a huge embarrassment for UB, but I hope they learn their lesson from this, and I hope other institutions also realize that such studies must be objective, and funding shouldn't be something they're so desperate to get that they would whore out bought-and-paid-for results for those footing the bill.

David C (131)
Friday November 23, 2012, 7:02 am
thanks, sounds good......

Lois Jordan (63)
Friday November 23, 2012, 1:28 pm
Noted & thanks, Kit. Good news & a nice gain for us in the anti-fracking crowd. I hope this is a precedent and not an isolated incident. We must all continue to speak out in any way possible against fracking, and gain even more People Power in this movement.

Past Member (0)
Saturday November 24, 2012, 5:29 am
Good. It is a start.

Susanne R (235)
Saturday November 24, 2012, 1:29 pm
According to the

" NEW YORK - The State University of New York at Buffalo announced Monday that it was closing its newly formed Shale Resources and Society Institute, which was devoted to the study of hydraulic fracturing, citing "a cloud of uncertainty over its work."

The institute's first study, released in May, drew sharp criticism for being biased in favor of the oil and gas industry.

In a letter addressed to the "university community," President Satish K. Tripathi said he was closing the institute after an internal assessment that determined that it lacked "sufficient" faculty presence, that it was not consistent enough in disclosing its financial interests and that the credibility of its research was compromised because of questions over its financing.

Buffalo's decision is the most extreme response to date over criticism of academic bias in research related to the controversial natural gas drilling process commonly known as hydrofracking, or fracking. The University of Texas at Austin is conducting a similar review of a university fracking study released this year. One of the professors who fostered the study did not disclose that he was on the board of a gasoline company.

The controversies over fracking research tap into concerns in academia about the growing influence of corporate money in research especially at a time when government grants are declining.

The University at Buffalo, a major research center with the most students in the State University of New York system, came under pressure from professors, students and some SUNY trustees to close its shale institute, with a petition with more than 10,500 signatures."
I think this it speaks volumes for the University that its professors, students and even some trustees created the pressure that shut down the program. The State budget has been in crisis more times than I can remember over the past few decades, and taking a stance that cost them badly-needed grants and donations from the oil industry could not have been an easy thing to do. I applaud the students and faculty for fighting against allowing Big Oil to diminish the University's reputation and president Satish Tripathi for ruling in favor of integrity and for his honesty in explaining why the University shut down the SRSI.

Many people have been led to believe that Buffalo is the worst place in the country to live, but nothing could be further from the truth. The University at Buffalo has a beautiful, massive, and modern campus and offers 100 undergraduate degrees and nearly 300 graduate and professional programs. I'm attaching a link to UB's website, just in case anyone is interested in taking a look. ABOUT UB

Tamara Mendelson (1)
Sunday November 25, 2012, 11:53 am
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