Monday, May 28, 2012

Should UB Sponsor a Shale Gas Institute?

~ By David Kowalski ~

The University at Buffalo (UB) has now entered into the controversial area of unconventional shale-gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing ('fracking') by sponsoring a newly-created "Shale Resources and Society Institute" (SRSI).

Last week, SRSI released their first study, which is entitled "Environmental Impacts During Shale Gas Drilling: Causes, Impacts and Remedies". The authors stated strong conclusions, which were included in a UB news release (May 15, 2012), and subsequently made for some sensational newspaper headlines. However, others who have since examined the study indicated that the authors' conclusions are biased and not supported by the data (see below).

And that's not all. Initial examination of the background of the study's authors indicated close ties with the gas drilling industry. Also, the UB news release claim that the report was "peer-reviewed" was incorrect. Subsequently, UB retracted that claim in a revised press release. Then one of the so-called peer-reviewers distanced himself from the SRSI study. Finally, the authors did not disclose their funding sources. All of these issues made shale gas and fracking sensitive topics at UB, as documented in a post last week.

Shown below are excerpts of new reports with a link to each full report. These articles start with an editorial letter by me, and continue with detailed analyses of the SRSI report by others, which together provide independent views of flaws and industry-bias in the SRSI study and lead one to question the wisdom of UB sponsorship.
Shale study harms UB’s reputation, By David Kowalski, Letter to The Buffalo News, May 24, 2012
But the fact that all three authors have ties to the energy industry raises concern about conflicts of interest. Their report and undisclosed funding sources only reinforce that concern and harm the university. 

They claimed that the decline [in environmental violations per gas well] was evidence for improved industry operations and state regulations. However, the authors completely ignored the fact that, as more wells were drilled over time, the total number of environmental violations increased by threefold. 

It is a shame that this study was done under the aegis of UB. The university should protect its reputation and re-evaluate its sponsorship of the Shale Resources and Society Institute.  

UB report on 'fracking' draws fire of watchdog, By David Robinson, The Buffalo News -- Front page story, May 25, 2012
A Buffalo-based corporate accountability research group Thursday criticized as "seriously flawed and biased" last week's study from the University at Buffalo that said stronger regulation was leading to an improved safety record among drillers in Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale.

The new report from the Public Accountability Initiative disputed the conclusions of the study by UB's new Shale Resources and Society Institute, which reported that the rate of environmental violations -- both major and minor -- were declining at Pennsylvania's Marcellus wells.

"The evidence does not support the notion that fracking is becoming any safer," the new study said.

"While masquerading as independent, academic research, the report's errors all point in the direction of heavy pro-industry bias and spin," the Public Accountability Initiative study said.  

Critics question shale gas researcher, schools, By Kevin Begos, Associated Press, May 25, 2012
 A well-known expert on the natural gas boom is again facing criticism over his ties to industry and a lack of transparency in how he presents work to the public, fueling debates over research that's been published by major universities.

Timothy Considine was lead author on a shale gas report recently issued by the University at Buffalo and a previous report from Penn State University. Critics say both reports presented research in misleading ways and failed to fully disclose funding sources.

Considine, now at the University of Wyoming, has gotten funding from industry groups such as the Marcellus Shale Coalition, the Wyoming Mining Association, the American Iron and Steel Institute, and the American Petroleum Institute.

On Thursday, the Public Accountability Initiative, a Buffalo nonprofit, issued a critique of the UB study.

The University at Buffalo also said the report "was not funded or commissioned by external sources." But Considine told The Associated Press in an email that the University of Wyoming paid him and two other lead authors.
Martha McCluskey, a University at Buffalo law professor who was on an ethics committee there, said the new shale institute appears not to meet disclosure provisions and hasn't gone through the standard process for faculty approval and vetting of new centers and initiatives to preserve academic integrity.  

UB Pulls SRSI Website, By the Public Accountability Initiative, May 25, 2012 (updated May 26, 2012)
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

The Public Accountability Initiative saved copies of most of the SRSI’s web pages.

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


~ Remembering those who died while serving our country ~
“Where will they go when there’s no more room in Arlington?” -- Musical History of Arlington National Cemetery. Watch the video and remember: we're still at war. Will wars never end?

“Where will they go when there’s no more room in Arlington?” is a question posed in a song written by Andy Revkin of the NY Times. Times videographer Craig Duff used the song in a video he create at Arlington National Cemetery.

MEMORIAL DAY: Origins, Significance, the Fallen--Ours and Theirs, Reflections.
Chris Hayes at MSNBC gives his story of the week on the significance of Memorial Day as he commemorates the first American casualty of Operation Enduring Freedom, and talks about the origins of the holiday.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

COMMUNITY EVENT: People's Hearing on Fracking

A People’s Hearing on Fracking
will be held on June 2, 2012

at the Burchfield Penney Art Center and Buffalo State College
from 10am-4:30pm.
The event is FREE and open to the public.
Please see the event web site for a full schedule of events, links, and bios of speakers and artists.

A People’s Hearing on Fracking is bringing Buffalo’s amazing artistic and cultural community together with WNY’s hard working environmental community to create an informational, fun, and culturally significant event. The goal is to create a synergy that will draw as many people as possible to engage in clean water issues. Live stream video will immediately carry the proceedings to a world stage.

There are three components to A People’s Hearing on Fracking:

Featured Speakers and Workshops:
An exciting variety of speakers and workshops are available for public attendance and participation. Nationally recognized speakers include Ruth Breech of Global Community Monitor, Dr. Jill Kriesky from the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health, Bill Belitskus of the Allegheny Defense Project, and former energy insider James “Chip” Northrup. New York State speakers and presenters include Jim Anderson of Citizen Action, Larry Bennett of Ommegang Brewery, Sarah Buckley of POWR, Jay Burney of the Learning Sustainability Campaign, Robert M. Ciesielski of the Sierra Club, Joseph Heath Esq. the Chief Counsel for the Onondaga Nation, Dr. Stephen Cleghorn, Luella Kenney, and Rita Yelda of Food & Water Watch / WNY Drilling Defense, as well as event host Bruce Fisher, Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Studies at Buffalo State College.

The Hearing:
A People’s Hearing on Fracking will give Western New Yorkers a chance to publicly state their views in a way that was denied to this region by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation during the DEC’s Fall 2011 draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement on fracking. The DEC held four public Hearings downstate, but none were held in Western New York. A People’s Hearing on Fracking will provide WNY the Hearing the DEC should have provided! There are forty 3-minute public speaking slots scheduled between 1:30 and 3:30 in the Burchfield Penney Auditorium. Transcripts from the Hearing will be delivered to elected officials at all levels of government: local, state, national, and international. (Note that there will video testimony options if more than 40 people sign-up to speak.) People can sign-up on-line prior to the event.

Music, Cultural and Artistic:
This family-friendly day will include children’s crafts and science experiments, as well as live music and theatrical performances. Featured artists will include the 12/8 Path Band, David Kane & nimbus dance, Nancy Parisi, Michele Costa, the crack horse, and Clandestina. There will also be a children’s book nook by Burning Books, and Nichols School environmental students (lead by their teacher Josh Ring) presenting science demonstrations on the effects of fracking.

Food will be available at the Burchfield Penney Café.
Please encourage people to come and let WNY’s true voice on this life or death issue be heard!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Buffalo Solar Jobs Day

WHEN: Thursday, May 24, 12:00pm to 3:00pm
WHERE: Cornell’s Industrial and Labor Relations School, 237 Main St., Suite 1200, Buffalo

State lawmakers are considering ways to make New York a leader in our nation's growing solar economy, meanwhile solar power is already making a difference all around the state. Come explore the ways that solar power is working for New York today.

12:00pm – Press Conference
• Senator Mark Grisanti, New York State Senate
• Ron Kammen, President of the New York Solar Energy Industries Association
• Ryan McPherson, University of Buffalo
• Environmental Org Representation

12:30pm – Solar Jobs Training 101
• Jeff Stevens, SUNY Alfred

1:30pm – Solar Power Education & Policy
• New York Solar Policy and the NY Solar Jobs Act – Ron Kammen
• Solar in Buffalo, Univ. of Buffalo’s Solar Strand – Ryan McPhereson
• How Solar Works – Solar Liberty
• Environmental Benefits of Solar Deployment – Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Sierra Club

Solar Jobs in the Community & Demos: Local solar companies will showcase their offerings and provide information about going solar in New York.

Local Solar Grassroots: New York Solar Jobs Coalition partners will be on hand to answer questions about the New York Solar Jobs Act. Participants will have the opportunity to show lawmakers they care about their local solar economy.

A printable flier for the event is here. 

For inquiries contact Peter Olmsted at the Vote Solar Initiative - or 717-305-0045

Shale Gas & Fracking -- Sensitive Topics at UB

Shale gas extraction by the unconventional process of high-volume, hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a highly controversial topic in New York State. 

Nicole Manzo /// The Spectrum
The State University of NY (SUNY) and the University of Buffalo (UB) have now made surprise entrances into the fracking fracas. SUNY has signed a $22 million deal to buy natural gas extracted by fracking, and UB has formed a new institute focused on development of shale resources. Ties to the gas industry and to industry-friendly faculty appear to be making shale gas and fracking sensitive topics at the university.

Reports from the university and journalists on the above issues and links to the first study by the new UB Shale Institute appear below in chronological order:

SUNY Inks $22M Deal to Buy Hydrofracked Gas, By Buck Quigley, Artvoice, March 29, 2012 
SUNY Spokesperson Tells Journalist What to Write, By Buck Quigley, Artvoice, March 30, 2012

If Fracking Isn’t Bad, Why Is SUNY Trying to Hide It? By Luke Hammill, The UB Spectrum, April 3, 2012 

Announcing the New Shale Institute at UB, By Buck Quigley, Artvoice, April 5, 2012 

Shale Resources and Society Institute to Analyze Shale's Potential as an Energy Resource, UB News Release, April 5, 2012.  
New institute will provide policymakers and other stakeholders with research-based information on the development of shale. 
Excerpt: The goal of the institute is to provide accurate, research-based information on the development of shale and other unconventional resources, said John P. Martin, the institute's director.

"We're really trying to provide fact-based, objective information," Martin said. "We're guided by science."

UB's Shale Resources and Society Institute Examines Violations in Developing Natural Gas in Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale, NEWS RELEASE from the University at Buffalo, May 15, 2012
The report finds that environmental events are declining and suggests that proposed regulations in New York could mitigate future problems  

Excerpt: Announced by UB on April 5, the Shale Resources and Society Institute's goal is to provide accurate, research-based information on the development of shale gas and other unconventional energy sources. The institute conducts and disseminates peer-reviewed research that can help guide policymakers on issues relating to hydraulic fracturing.

This is the first report produced by the institute. 

The entire report is available here
Bios of the report's authors are available here.

UB Shale Institute Taps Industry Shills for First Report, by Buck Quigley, Artvoice, May 15, 2012

'Fracking' risks found to have been diminished, By David Robinson,
The Buffalo News, May 16, 2012
Front-page story on the first report by the UB Shale Institute 
Fracking study has some cracks? The Buffalo News 'Strictly Business' Blog, May 16, 2012
Excerpt: Lead author, Timothy Considine, has come under fire for his ties to the oil and gas industry. He has been called "the energy industry's go-to academic for highlighting the positives, and not the negatives, of fossil fuel development."

Reviewer of UB Frack Study Backs Off, By Buck Quigley, Artvoice, May 17, 2012 
Note: It took just one day for Scott Anderson—senior policy advisor with the Environmental Defense Fund’s Energy Program—one of the report’s “reviewers” to distance himself from the study.

Institute examines fracking violations, By Cory Nealon, UB REPORTER, May 17, 2012
This revised version of the
May, 15, 2012 News Release was published in the UB REPORTER and included the following Editor's note: 
An earlier version of this story described the report as “peer-reviewed.” This description may have given readers an incorrect impression. The story has been edited to more accurately describe the process by which the report’s authors gathered comments before finalizing their report.

UB News Website Retracts Shale Institute’s “Peer Review” Claim, By Buck Quigley, Artvoice, May 21, 2012

UPDATE: May 23, 2012 
Check the math: Study touting ‘safer’ fracking reveals Big Oil’s ties to academia, By Sharon Kelly, Grist
"The problem isn’t just that the study itself is misleading and riddled with errors (which it is). It’s that in their efforts to win public favor, the fracking industry increasingly hides behind academia to circulate  misinformation — and the University of Buffalo is the latest cover."

UPDATE: May 24, 2012
Shale study harms UB’s reputation, By David Kowalski, Letter to The Buffalo News
"But the fact that all three authors have ties to the energy industry raises concern about conflicts of interest. Their report and undisclosed funding sources only reinforce that concern and harm the university."

UPDATE: May 25, 2012
UB report on 'fracking' draws fire of watchdog, By David Robinson, The Buffalo News -- Front page story 
"A Buffalo-based corporate accountability research group Thursday criticized as "seriously flawed and biased" last week's study from the University at Buffalo that said stronger regulation was leading to an improved safety record among drillers in Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale."

Monday, May 21, 2012

Fossil Fuel Subsidies: Let's End 'Polluter Welfare'


At a time when we have a more than $15 trillion national debt, U.S. taxpayers are set to give away roughly $110 billion to the oil, gas and coal industries over the next decade. We cannot afford it.

The five largest oil companies made more than $1 trillion in profits in the last decade, and in some cases paid no federal income taxes for part of that time. They certainly don’t need government handouts.

We need to end this corporate welfare in the form of massive subsidies and tax breaks to hugely profitable fossil fuel corporations. It is time for Congress to support the taxpayers’ interests instead of powerful special interests like the oil and coal industries. That’s why we introduced the End Polluter Welfare Act — which eliminates every subsidy to the oil, gas and coal industries.

The bill already has grass-roots support from across the political spectrum, including, Friends of the Earth, Taxpayers for Common Sense and many others.

Some of the same Republicans in Congress who advocate savage cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security consistently vote to preserve billions in tax breaks for Exxon Mobil, one of the most profitable corporations in U.S. history. While those members of Congress fight to continue fossil fuel subsidies worth tens of billions, they are working overtime to deny a one-year extension of key sustainable energy incentives for the emerging wind and solar industries.

Rather than pass strong legislation to help reverse global warming, Congress continues giveaways to the fossil fuel industry — even as its carbon pollution devastates our planet.

While there have been attempts to remove some of these fossil-fuel subsidies in the past, our bill is the most comprehensive. It would end all tax breaks, loopholes and federal research support for fossil fuels. It would make sure the industry pays its fair share by ensuring royalty collection for all drilling or mining on public land. We also end the loopholes that allow tar sands pipeline operators avoid paying clean-up tax.

It is important that the American people understand just how egregious these fossil fuel handouts are:

People's Hearing on Fracking

By Rita Yelda, WNY Organizer, Food & Water Watch; WNY Drilling Defense.
Fracking for natural gas puts our air, land and water at risk. And despite plans to frack Western New York, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) skipped over our region when they held public meetings.

A People’s Hearing On Fracking will provide Western New Yorkers with the hearing that the DEC never did. And unlike the downstate events staged by the DEC, this will be a genuine public hearing where all speakers and all points of view will be heard. Join us to speak your mind on fracking and make our legislators listen up!

In conjunction with the hearing, this event will have educational workshops, prestigious speakers and cultural events. This will be the biggest fracking event this area has ever seen! Let's give Western New York a collective public voice on fracking! Can you be there to share in it all?

See you there on June 2nd!

The Website for the event is here.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Visiting Author Inspires Young Stewards for the Planet

By David Kowalski

Lynne Cherry, a children's author, illustrator and filmmaker, visited Windermere and Smallwood Elementary Schools this week to interact with the children and encourage them to explore Nature through observation, drawing and writing.

Cherry also gave an evening presentation which I attended at Smallwood Elementary School. She spoke while showing slides and film clips from her "Young Voices for the Planet" project. She encouraged children and parents to enjoy Nature more (and TV less) and to protect our environment. She introduced them to clean energy sources through images of wind turbines and solar panels, as well as through group participation in a song featuring Pete Seeger in a music video  called "SolarTopia!"

She carries her own reusable spoon and bowl when she travels, as shown in the photo below taken at Windermere School. She does so to avoid using disposable plastic utensils and dishware. She also favors a ban on plastic bags.  
Derek Gee / Buffalo News
Derek Gee / Buffalo News

Cherry told me that she explained to the children the concept of watersheds, and how plastic waste can make its way from land to streams, rivers and lakes, and ultimately pollute Earth's oceans, which are all interconnected.

Lynne Cherry is the author and/​or illustrator of over thirty award-winning books for children. Her best-selling books, such as The Great Kapok Tree and A River Ran Wild, teach children to respect Earth. To learn more about these and other books, visit her personal website.

"Young Voices For The Planet" is a series of short films produced by Lynne Cherry. She has documented inspiring success stories of older kids shrinking their carbon footprint, finding solutions to the global warming crisis, banning plastic bags, planting trees, reducing waste, experiencing the excitement of scientific discovery through citizen-science, and conducting energy audits that save energy and money. View the video trailer below:

You can view all of the films in Lynne Cherry's "Young Voices For The Planet" series here.


  • Where's the Jobs? - How this state’s electricity pricing system is hamstringing investment and renewables and stifling job growth - By David Bradley



Friday, May 11, 2012

Bike to Work Week: May 14-18 -- Party: May 19

By Henry Raess, Community Outreach Coordinator, GO Bike Buffalo

May is national Bike Month and GO Bike Buffalo (formerly Green Options) together with local sponsors are celebrating Bike to Work Week with a number of events.

We'll even help you get ready for your ride. Here is the schedule:
Fri, May 11th - Tune-up Night @ the Community Workshop (98 Colvin Ave.) 7 to 10pm
Sat, May 12th - Commuter Workshop - 1 to 4pm - For around the cost of a tank of gas our knowledgeable staff will help get you on your way to becoming a safe, well-informed, well-equipped bicycle commuter.

May 14-18th is Bike to Work Week

Mon, May 14th - Bicycle Breakfast at Sweetness 7 Cafes, 8 to 10am (Grant & Lafayette and Parkside & Russell)

Fri, May 18th - Bike to Work Day

Bicycle Breakfast at Cafe Taza, 7 to 10am (Elmwood & Allen)
Bike Away from Work Happy Hour - Cantina Loco, 5 to 8pm (Elmwood & Allen)

Sat, May 19th - GO Bike Launch Party

Essex Art Complex  (30 Essex St.)  7pm
Live music, DJs, $1 drafts of Rusty Chain beer all night and Bike Olympics!
$20 gets you a discounted one-year membership to GO Bike Buffalo and admission. FREE for current members of GO Bike/Green Options! 

For the scoop on what's going on with our organization and details on upcoming events, check out our monthly spot on The Good Neighborhood Blog: GO Buffalo! GO Bike! on the Good Neighborhood

Sunday, May 6, 2012

HOMEOWNERS: Cut Electricity Bills and Pollution by Leasing Solar Panels

Solar panel leasing is new alternative to purchasing that has recently become available to homeowners in New York State. Leasing will make the transition to clean, renewable electricity possible and affordable for many more homeowners. 

Favorable incentives offered by the federal and state governments now make leasing a home solar-electric system possible.
With leasing, there are no up-front purchase costs and no additional charges for installation, maintenance and insurance.

Savings over previous electric bills are guaranteed.
At the same time, the solar homeowner will lower their carbon footprint and help stabilize the climate. It's a win-win for people and the planet.

It's also a win for our local economy since solar system installation creates new, local jobs -- green jobs. 

To get a Free Quote to see if leasing solar panels will work for you, Click Here, and get $500.00 back if you lease.

Originally posted on 4/21/2012

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Live Camera on a Great Blue Heron Nest

Live Heron Cam:
Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York

Another Camera: To see the nest from a different angle, Right-click here and select "Open in a New Window".

HINTS: Keep BOTH cameras displayed on your screen at the same time. A human will sometimes pan the second camera over the pond to see what the other heron is doing, such as fishing, nest repair or hanging out nearby.
Also, turn up the Sound Volume on your computer. There's a party going on! 

Status updates: The herons have returned! 
You will see courtship displays and nest-building activities. The female laid her first egg on March 28. Watch for the next egg, usually laid two to three days after the first one.
Morning of March 31: a second egg appeared.
By April 2: there were three eggs.
On April 3: the female laid her fourth egg.
On April 6: egg number five.
End of April: The eggs have hatched!

Herons usually lay 2-6 eggs and share incubation duties for 25-30 days. Incubation begins with the first egg, and the young hatch asynchronously (not at the same time) over 2-5 days. After hatching, it'll take 7-8 weeks before they fly from the nest for the first time.
Live streaming video is from cornellherons at

Originally posted here on March 29, 2012 and updated several times.

Global Day for Climate Action: LOCAL EVENT TODAY

Today, all around our planet, people will connect the dots between fossil fuel extraction, global warming, health and the extreme weather that has reshaped so much of the American landscape this year. The global event is being coordinated by, a climate action campaign that advocates a transition to clean energy.

WHAT: RALLY: Move beyond fossil fuels -- Shift to clean, sustainable energy
WHERE: In front of the Coal-fired power plant at 3500 River Rd, Tonawanda [Map]
WHEN: 1pm - 3pm on Saturday, May 5, 2012
WEAR: Black if possible

  •  Alan Lockwood, accomplished Emeritus Professor of Neurology and Nuclear Medicine at UB, Director and Co-Chair of the Environmental Health Committee and member of Physicians for Social Responsibility
  • Rita Yelda, anti-fracking rockstar, of Food and Water Watch. She's also the founder of WNY Drilling Defense
  • Subhashni Raj, organizer from the Pacific Islands of Fiji, which are being impacted by rising sea levels, flooding, and loss of coral reefs
  • Bill Nowak, a well-established pillar in the community, on behalf of the Sierra Club's Clean Energy Campaign
  • Henry Raess, cycling visionary at Green Options (GO) Buffalo, to talk about green transportation alternatives
  • Andrew Randazzo, organizer for's Buffalo Chapter and advocate for local citizens affected by the coal-burning plant
The event is hosted by Teresa Watson and Andrew Randazzo.

Link to a cool flyer is HERE

Announcement of the event in The Buffalo News.