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Green Energy in the News

Here’s a brief rundown of some Earth-friendly stories you may have missed:

• On April Fool’s Day, EnergyMark LLC began piping natural gas from Pennsylvania to five State University of New York campuses—a contract worth $22 million. Tim Wright, a spokesperson for the Amherst company, explained the sensitivity SUNY has to mentioning hydrofracture as part of the deal:

“A big source of that is gas that has been recovered through a fracking technique,” Wright said. “What we don’t want to put in the press release—and we talked to SUNY about this—is that this is specifically gas from a fracked well. SUNY said they were fine with a press release as long as we didn’t emphasize any fracking. And I think that’s because of the political nature of fracking versus the physical nature of the supply source. And frankly, there’s no way we can tell once the gas is put into a pipeline system.”

SUNY spokesperson David Belsky replied to the controversy via email:

The word “hydrofracking”—who said it, and who didn’t—is irrelevant to what this story should be about. The EnergyMark contract was achieved by five SUNY campuses working together to reduce costs. In fact, it’s one component of a larger, collaborative energy buying program that SUNY uses to bring all kinds of energy sources to campuses, saving our system approximately $1.5 million a year.

Students at Buff State, one of the colleges receiving the gas, staged a protest asking how SUNY could actively support the practice of high-volume horizontal fracking, which is under moratorium in New York but legal in Pennsylvania—for relatively small savings—while simultaneously raising tuition for all SUNY students.

• On April 5, broke the story of the UB Shale Resources and Society Institute. Co-directors John Martin and professor Robert Jacobi are financially involved in the energy industry. According to a UB press release that was hurriedly sent out as we were about to publish the story:

Martin said the institute plans to seek funding from sources including industry and individuals, as well as agencies that support scientific research relating to energy. Future plans include establishing a management committee for the institute that includes the voices of environmental organizations and other stakeholders.

Martin had already presented himself as director of the institute at a fracking conference in Jakarta, Indonesia in February. He was also already scheduled to speak on the subject under his new official title at the Houston Club this fall.

We learned of UB’s institute from a conversation with Gary Lash, head of the SUNY Fredonia Shale Institute, which is funded by Chief Oil & Gas, Chesapeake Energy, Seneca Resources, Thermo Scientific, Shell, and EQT. Jacobi is senior geology advisor for EQT, a Pittsburgh-based energy company, according to the UB press release.

A spokesperson for SUNY Fredonia explained that the funds contributed by these companies went to the Fredonia College Foundation of SUNY—thus making details of the donations (how much, from whom)—beyond the reach of Freedom of Information Law.

• On April 23, UB held a public unveiling of its new “Solar Strand,” an array of panels designed to look like a strand of DNA from above, and capable of producing 750 kilowatts of electric power for student housing. Critics of the project—which was funded with a $7.5 million grant from the New York Power Authority—were quick to point out that the projected $60,000 in annual energy savings would mean that the facility will pay for itself in 125 years.

Meanwhile, real estate records show that Adam Rizzo, the president of Amherst energy company Solar Liberty—one of the main contractors on the project—purchased UB president Satish Tripathi’s old five-bedroom, four-and-a-half bathroom house at 30 Raphael Court for $640,000 on March 2.

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