Thursday, June 28, 2012

UB CLEAR: Artvoice Article, Demands, Petition, Talks, Shale Institute Grades, and News Updates

UB Group Asks For Investigation of Shale Institute
by Buck Quigley, Artvoice

A group of faculty, students, alumni, and other New York State citizens calling itself the UB Coalition for Leading Ethically in Academic Research (UB CLEAR) is holding a press conference at noon, Thursday (6/28), at the corner of Main and Bailey on the SUNY at Buffalo South Campus.

The coalition formed in response to the UB Shale Resources and Society Institute (SRSI)—the formation of which, they argue, “violates UB procedures for creating centers and institutes.” 

Press Release and UB CLEAR's Four Demands: click here

Endorse the Petition: Meet UB CLEAR's Four Demands

Press Conference Speakers and Links to Talks
UB CLEAR speakers that appeared at the press conference were Leslie Nickerson, a doctoral candidate in UB’s English Department; Stephen Halpern, a professor of political science; David Kowalski, professor emeritus of cancer genetics at Roswell Park and of cellular and molecular biology at UB; Sarah Buckley, UB alumna and registered nurse; Adam Drury, another doctoral candidate in UB’s English Department.

Report Card
Student Name: Shill Institute c/o John P. Martin, Director
Click Image to Enlarge
UPDATE: June 29, 2012 - The Buffalo News - Business
Click images to enlarge
UPDATE: June 29, 2012 - Late online release of the article above
UB staff, students urge probe of institute
Critics say school's reputation is in danger due to controversy surrounding Shale Resources and Society Institute

UPDATE: June 29, 2012 - Public Accountability Initiative Report
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.

UPDATE: June 29, 2012  - New York Times Looks at UB Shale Institute (Again) -- by Buck Quigley, Artvoice
The State University of New York at Buffalo picks up another black eye from the New York Times today, thanks again to the school’s Shale Resources and Society Institute (SRSI). Click here to read the story by Mireya Navarro.
To read more at Artvoice, click here.

UPDATE: June 30, 2012 - Press Conference Videos
- First two speakers

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Press Conference: Report Card on the UB Shale Resources & Society Institute -- Launch of UB CLEAR

  • WHO: University at Buffalo (UB) Faculty, Students, Alumni and Concerned Citizens
  • WHAT: Press Conference with UB CLEAR -- Coalition for Leading Ethically in Academic Research
  • WHEN: Thursday, June 28th, at 12:00 P.M.
  • WHERE: UB South Campus, at corner of Main Street and Bailey Avenue; In case of rain, at covered entrance to Squire Hall
UB faculty, students, alumni, and concerned citizens will present the Administration and the UB Shale Resources and Society Institute with a larger-than-life report card and give brief talks.

Information below describes the Background of the controversy surrounding the UB Shale Resources and Society Institute, and presents UB CLEARS's demands. Also below is an extensive bibliography, with links to articles on the UB Shale Institute, compiled by UB Professor Jim Holstun. For additional information on the press conference, please contact Jim Holstun 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Shale Gas Drillers Fail to Comply with Regulations Protecting Health and Environment

The PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center released a report  entitled "Risky Business: An Analysis of Marcellus Shale Gas Drilling Violations in Pennsylvania 2008-2011" on February 8, 2012.

Using records obtained by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP), the Center identified a total of 3,355 violations of environmental laws by 64 different Marcellus Shale gas drilling companies between January 1, 2008 and December 31, 2011.  Of these violations, the Center identified 2,392 violations that likely posed a direct threat to our environment. These were not reporting or paperwork violations. 

Moreover, the PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center believes these numbers offer a conservative view of environmental violations taking place across the Pennsylvania by Marcellus Shale gas drilling companies. These data only include violations discovered by PADEP’s enforcement staff. Yet based upon the number of wells drilled and limited PADEP enforcement staff, further violations that have gone undetected are likely.

The greatest numbers of environmental violations were related to improper erosion and sedimentation plans: 625 (26% of all violations likely to impact the environment). The second greatest number involved faulty pollution prevention techniques: 550 (23% of violations likely to impact the environment).

Between 2008 and 2011, on average, Pennsylvania saw more than two violations per day uncovered by PADEP, roughly 1.5 of which had the greatest potential to impact the environment.

PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center identified 963 violations (29% of all violations) that seemed less likely to directly endanger the environment or the safety of communities. Their report focuses on the violations that have the greatest potential for directly impacting Pennsylvania’s environment.

The report concludes that "Marcellus Shale gas drilling companies are either unable or unwilling to comply with basic environmental laws that have been put in place to protect the health and environment of Pennsylvanians."

PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center recommends in the report that "certain policy handles must be implemented in order to stop the rampant rate of environmental violations that drilling companies commit in Pennsylvania each year."

Visit the PENN Environment Web site to download the report and to see information about the author and sources of foundation support. 

Commentary ~ by David Kowalski 
It's interesting to compare the PENN Environment results with those in a new report by the University at Buffalo (UB) Shale Resources and Society Institute (SRSI). The latter report is entitled "Environmental Impacts during Marcellus Shale Gas Drilling: Causes, Impacts and Remedies" (released May 15, 2012 and revised June 6, 2012). Both reports analyzed PADEP data but they arrived at very different conclusions.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

University Dean Probed on UB Shale Institute and Funding Sources

By David Kowalski ~

The Capitol Pressroom for June 7, 2012 ~

Host Susan Arbetter interviewed Dr. Bruce Pitman from the State University at Buffalo (UB) about the recent fracking-related study issued by the new UB Shale Institute. Pittman is Dean for Research and Sponsored Programs at UB’s College of Arts and Sciences and a Professor of Mathematics. 

Transcript of Susan Arbetter's Introductory Remarks: So a few weeks ago, the University at Buffalo’s new Shale Resources and Society Institute released its first study, titled “Environmental Impacts During Shale Gas Drilling: Causes, Impacts, and Remedies.” Immediately Artvoice, which is an alternative newspaper in Buffalo, raised questions about the study: who funded it? What are the authors’ ties to industry? Those questions snowballed, and were being asked by larger news organizations like the Associated Press. Further discrepancies were uncovered between what the lead author claimed in a UB press release and what was actually claimed in the study, including one claim that the report was peer reviewed when it was not. All these criticisms culminated in an unflattering report by the nonprofit Public Accountability Initiative, a report that you can see online [see below]. All of this highlights questions about research funding in general, especially in light of the troubled history at the SUNY Research Foundation, and what some news outlets have called the veil of secrecy over Research Foundation funding. 


You can listen to all of Arbetter's remarks and Pitman's responses online in the audio recording here, starting at 23:18 minutes into the recording. There is also an MP3 clip containing only the Pitman interview (starting at 0:00 minutes) that can be downloaded here (courtesy of Robert Galbraith).

Read the full interview in a transcript here (courtesy of Jim Holstun).


During the interview, Pitman acknowledged that he gave the support to create the Institute, and that he appointed the Director and the Co-Director, and got the Institute started.

Concerning the claim in the UB press release that the study was "peer-reviewed", which was later retracted, he said "That was an inarticulate phrase in the press release, right?"

Merely 'inarticulate'? Not incorrect and misleading? Surely the newspapers that highlighted this story with sensational headlines were misled after reading the erroneous "peer-reviewed" claim in the press release and other misleading claims (see below).

At the end of the interview, Arbetter asks, "But would you admit that there were mistakes made with this report?" 

Pitman replied, "There are certainly some typos in the report. I’ve been in touch with the author about one or two that I spotted when I read the report. I think they’re going to be issuing an errata with those typos. There’re a couple of them. If you’re asking do I want to distance myself from the report or anything like that, Susan, I think the report stands on its own merits."

Just 'typos'? Really? Nothing of substance that might be misleading and convey a shale-gas industry bias? No other mistakes?

I can think of a few mistakes.

A major mistake was the failure to disclose sources of funding for the study. The absence of transparency in an academic setting is intolerable. This, together with the authors' ties to the gas industry pose an obvious conflict of interest.

If you read the Shale Institute study, which few have likely done, you can see the flaws and biases that were detailed in the Public Accountability Initiative (PAI) review. That review also found that entire passages of the study were copied, without proper attribution, from an earlier pro-fracking report, according to the PAI. This is not simply a mistake, but more like academic dishonesty.

The UB press release for the shale study stated that "The report finds that environmental events are declining and suggests that proposed regulations in New York could mitigate future problems." While newspapers grabbed that sentence to make sensational headlines, the number of environmental events actually increased, not decreased. This is a very, serious mistake. Unfortunately, it led to misleading, attention-getting newspaper headlines.

The study did not demonstrate a cause and effect relationship between State regulation and environmental events, contrary to the message that many got from the newspapers. In fact, within the Shale Institute study (page 15) the authors stated explicity: "While difficult to conclusively illustrate causation between regulatory actions and decreases in environmental violations, the history of regulations in Pennsylvania suggests such a relationship may exist." The difficulty to conclusively show this cause and effect relationship in the report did not stop the authors from claiming such a relationship in the UB press release. Here's one example: "This study presents a compelling case that state oversight of oil and gas regulation has been effective," lead author Timothy Considine said. The press release contains additional examples.

Finally, the authors' claim that proposed New York regulations could mitigate future problems was merely wishful thinking. Like Considine's conclusion stated in the preceding paragraph, this claim was not supported by any data.

The Shale Institute paper was not an objective study. The authors' conclusions were not drawn not from direct evidence. Instead, their conclusions were biased in favor of existing state regulations and the gas industry, to which all of the authors have ties. The authors responsible for this paper are certainly not representative of the university's excellent research faculty. 

Dean Pitman recommended in the interview "a few people at least should read the report, look at the analysis, look at the analysis from API’s [sic, PAI’s] study." In the spirit of scholarly academic pursuit, it's only fair to recommend that Dean Pitman and others at the university do the same.

On May 25, 2012, regarding criticisms of the authors' conclusions, Dean Pitman said "UB will examine all relevant concerns, in accordance with the university's strong commitment to academic and research excellence." 

The University at Buffalo should also investigate whether the Shale Institute and it's industry-tied authors share that same strong commitment to excellence and merit UB sponsorship.

UPDATE: New reports on the UB Shale Institute

Institute’s Gas Drilling Report Leads to Claims of Bias and Concern for a University’s Image, by Mirea Navarro, The New York Times, June 11, 2012. Questions about data and the authors’ industry ties have surrounded a study about fracking in Pennsylvania that was done by a new research arm at the State University at Buffalo.

Fracking Research and the Money That Flows To It, by Mirea Navarro, The New York Times, June 12, 2012. The University at Buffalo says the money came from discretionary funds in the budget of the College of Arts and Sciences but that the new institute is seeking funds from the natural gas industry and other sources.

Buffalo Niagara Green Expo -- Exhibitor Registrations

4th Annual Buffalo Niagara Green Expo 
will be held on
October 27, 2012 
at the 
Buffalo Niagara Convention Center

The Green Expo is now accepting Exhibitor Registrations.  

Interested in exhibiting? Please see these links:  
Early bird registration discount until July 31st!

Visit the Website here, and the Facebook page here

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Broad-Based WNY Coalition Urges Sen. Grisanti to Support Fracking Ban

By Rita Yelda ~
Over 1,700 Western NY Residents, 100 Local Businesses and Organizations Demand Grisanti Support Legislation to Prohibit Controversial Drilling Method

Buffalo, NY – Concerned Buffalo residents joined community leaders, business owners and representatives from consumer, environmental and social justice groups today at a rally in support of a statewide ban on the highly controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”

The rally targeted State Senator Mark Grisanti, chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, who has yet to publicly support a ban on fracking in New York.

A broad-based array of community members gathered at Sen. Grisanti’s office to present the senator with 1,766 petition signatures from local residents and 102 letters from local organizations and businesses. Senator Grisanti was specifically urged to co-sponsor SB4220 and bring it up for a vote, as the bill has been languishing in his committee since last year. The bill would stop the NY Department of Environmental Conservation from issuing permits to allow drilling in the state. The rally came nine days before the end of the legislative session.

"In spite of overwhelming evidence that fracking cannot be done safely, the Senate has refused to act on legislation to protect New Yorkers from this dangerous, polluting practice. As the legislative session draws to a close, our elected officials need to know that their inaction will not go unnoticed," said Rita Yelda, organizer with Food & Water Watch.

"By ignoring his constituents and constituent groups, the senator is siding with influential oil and gas companies. Today I hope the Senator sees that we're sending the strong message that we all value our vital water resources and will not allow the oil and gas industry to risk these resources," added Jim Anderson, Vice President of the State Board for Citizen Action NY.

 See more photos here