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Next story: Pre-Post-Primary Considerations

UB Releases Information on Shale Institute

As we were going to press on Wednesday, I received PDFs of some documents I requested on July 12 under the Freedom of Information Law, pertaining to the UB Shale Resources and Society Institute. Records Access Officer Brian Hines writes in his email:

Pursuant to your request, under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Law, Article 6 of the Public Officers Law, disclosable documents responsive to your request are attached. There are no other records responsive to your request.

Certain information has been redacted on the grounds that its disclosure would constitute an “unwarranted invasion of personal privacy,” or are “inter-agency or intra-agency materials” consistent with Public Officers Law 87(2)(b) and 87 (2)(g).

Among the heavily redacted documents is a February 10 email from Executive Assistant to the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Heather Kornacki, copying members of the UB Geology Department—Professor Marcus Bursik; Grants and Development Coordinator Shana Camillo; Assistant to the Chair Alison Lagowski; and SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor and Director of Graduate Studies Charles Mitchell.

The email reads as follows:

Hi Dr. Bursik,

John Martin returned to the country the day before yesterday and signed his appointment form, returning it to us. He is officially appointed as of 12/15/11. Dr. Jacobi’s revised appointment letter should have gone out this week.

The Institute has an official Co-Director!



Martin had been out of the country speaking in Jakarta, Indonesia, identifying himself to audience members there as the co-director of the UB Shale Institute—even though the general public here would have no knowledge of the institute’s existence for nearly two more months, when Artvoice broke the story.

Other documents included in the FOIL response include a January 27, 2012 letter from Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Bruce Pitman to John Martin:

It gives me great pleasure to offer you a three-year part-time appointment (25% effort) as Research Professor (in-house title: Director, Shale Resources & Society Institute) in the Department of Geology, contingent on the approval of the Provost, and approval and formal appointment by the President. This appointment is effective December 15, 2011. Your part-time salary will be $60,000, paid on a 12-month, calendar year basis.

A follow up Memorandum of Understanding from Pitman to Martin relates to travel expenses:

During your three-year appointment, you will receive $1,000 per month to be used for travel in support of the SRSI and other personal expenses related to your appointment as Director. These funds will be paid to you through your paycheck on a biweekly basis for the duration of your current appointment. You are [sic] Please be advised that these funds will be tax liable; for more information on your tax liability, please contact the UB Foundation Office at 645-3013.

Martin signed the MOU on March 25.

Apparently, the arrangement had been in the works for some time. On January 19, 2012, Kornacki sent a letter to Martin, thanking him for his patience. The email was copied to Assistant Dean for Human Resources Monica Vacanti, as well at Pitman, Barton, Mitchell, and Lagowski.

According to that email, “Dean Pitman has discussed your proposal below with Martha Barton and they have decided to move forward with appointing you as an employee at $60,000 at 25% effort (as outlined under your preferred option A).”

“The next steps will occur from our end,” the email continues. “Our office must submit paperwork through HR, formalizing the details of your appointment. This may take one-two weeks to get through the HR process. After that process has been completed you will receive an offer letter under Dean Pitman’s signature. You should have the official letter by the end of the month.”

An email from Barton, dated May 24, to Deputy to the Provost Eileen Cain Sherman, copying Pitman and Kornacki states that it is Barton’s understanding that Pitman is Martin’s supervisor.

There is some correspondence with a reporter from Inside Higher Ed, asking about funding and if the institute would be studying health concerns.

Some of the correspondences hide the name of the author, like this one dated February 17, to Jacobi, Martin, and Lagowski:


To follow-up on your recent phone call regarding the operating support for the Shale Institute, I will be setting up a new RF account for the operating support for Year 1. The total amount that will be added to the account is $20,000, and you will need to spend the funding by 12/31/12. I hope to have a new project number by next week. At this time, I will not add the funding for the part-time assistant, until that person is identified and the correct amount of fringe can be calculated. In the interim, I will add [name redacted] as a signatory on the account in the event that [name redacted] is able to assist you.

There are cabinet minutes related to SRSI/Shale Institute, but they are almost completely redacted.

There is some literature from the Department of Geology—apparently dated August 7, 2012—referring to funding of the Marcellus Shale Institute: “One important part of the development of the Marcellus Institute is the hiring of a high-profile founder in an endowed chair, which requires funding on the level of $2-3 million.”

To this end, there is a document outlining the pitch for funding: “New York is home to a world-class shale gas resouce but action is urgently needed if the economic prize for the state and country is to be realized. Unbiased, scientifically-based knowledge must be acquired and effectively communicated.”

Among the highlights in the case for funding:

The funding plan for alumni and large corporations has been in the works for two years. A pitch to alumni and corporate interests in Houston is planned for October, following on two earlier meetings there in Spring, 2011.

We have already been successful in local corporate funding through the independent Oil and Gas Association (IOGA) of NY, and have good contacts with National Fuel, their wholly owned subsidiary Seneca Resources, and other resource companies involved in the Northeastern play.

Funding from foundations has already been solicited. An LOI was sent to the Colcom Foundation in September, 2011. Initial contacts for a future submission to the Sloan Foundation’s Energy and Environment program have been made.

The Alumni Board and extended alumni network of the Geology Department has been intimately involved in institute development and dissemination of guiding concepts. The alumni represent numerous local corporations involved in energy resource exploration and management, but also environmental and engineering consulting.

IOGA of NY is keenly aware of our plans and has not only aided us with funding, but also organizational help.

Through our Marcellus Shale lecture series last spring, we reached out to local citizenry, as well as government and environmental activist concerns and were able to make numerous contacts.

We have posted the released documents on the Artvoice Daily blog, for further public scrutiny. Which is ironic, because, of the 46 SRSI media contacts listed in the materials released, Artvoice is not included.

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