Artvoice: Buffalo's #1 Newsweekly
Home Blogs Web Features Calendar Listings Artvoice TV Real Estate Classifieds Contact
Previous story: Into the Dust
Next story: Meeting Minard

UB Shale Institute Website Goes Dark

Late last week, the UB Shale Resources and Society Institute (SRSI) took its website down to do some tweaking after it came under criticism in this newspaper and in a review issued by the Public Accountability Initiative (PAI) skewering SRSI’s “Environmental Impacts During Marcellus Shale Gas Drilling” report, which came out two weeks ago.

The review shows two of the report’s central claims to be false, and reveals that whole sections were lifted from an earlier pro-fracking report written by the same authors, without attribution. The earlier report was commissioned by the conservative Manhattan Institute, which receives substantial funding from energy companies like Exxon Mobil.

The report employs flawed methodology, biased language, and industry spin. It also relied on an artificial “peer review” process, according to authors Kevin Connor, Robert Galbraith, and Benjamin Nelson.

Using data included in the UB report, they bust the claim that major fracking-related environmental violations declined from 2008-2011. In fact, such violations increased 36 percent during that time period. The evidence is damning.

Late in the day Friday, SRSI’s amended website went back up, though it now claims to be “under construction” (or “under reconstruction,” as the case may be).

Also last Friday—after an AP story was published in papers around the country raising grave concerns about the funding for and gas industry ties to the SRSI—the UB Reporter issued a prepared statement from E. Bruce Pitman, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, disassociating UB from the opinions rendered by its faculty, in the name of academic freedom, and insisting that the SRSI had received no funding from private industry:

UB has received no industry funding for SRSI. The institute’s expenses and the salary of its part-time director, John P. Martin, have been paid entirely by the College of Arts and Sciences using discretionary funds, which come from sources that include indirect cost recovery from research grants, investment income and unrestricted gifts.

Dutifully, the Buffalo News summarized that statement. But you’ll notice that comments aren’t allowed on the story if you read it on the News website.

Meanwhile, SRSI’s presence has quietly been scaled back at UB Partner’s Day, scheduled for June 13. According to this archived page, SRSI’s John P. Martin and Marcy Werth of Ecology and Environment were scheduled to give a presentation at the event. Not anymore. Given the institute’s train-wreck of a debut this past week, wanting to keep a low-profile is perfectly understandable.

“The errors in this report really undermine its conclusions. The degree of bias and extensive ties to the natural gas industry suggest that UB is being used as an academic front for industry misinformation,” said lead author of the PAI study, Kevin Connor.

The review concludes: “Will the University at Buffalo and its parent system, the State University of New York, continue to participate in this deception?”

That’s a good question.

blog comments powered by Disqus