NYT outs UB Shale Shamstitute
WSJ makes it official – SUNY University of Buffalo has turned frack ‘ho :
The report itself is more PR spin than serious academic paper, as the Public Accountability Initiative notes:
The Public Accountability Initiative has published a scathing report re: the SUNY Buffalo report that says drilling has gotten less risky. See attached. Among the report’s findings:
· Two of the report’s central claims are false. The report claims that the rate of major environmental violations declined from 2008 to 2011. According to the report’s own data, the rate of major environmental accidents actually increased 36% from 2008 to 2011. The report also claims that the total number of environmental events declined over the period studied. In fact, the total number of environmental events increased by 189%, and the number of major environmental events increased 900%.
· A copy and paste job? The report lifts entire passages, without proper attribution, from an explicitly pro-fracking report released last year by the conservative Manhattan Institute and written by three of the four authors of the UB study.
· A flawed methodology. The report fails to address a number of factors that may influence the rate of environmental incidents per well. For instance, Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) inspectors were instructed to seek pre-approval for the filing of Notices of Violation (NOVs) in 2011 by the incoming administration in what was criticized as a politicization of the inspection process. Such a stance could affect the rate of incidence of environmental violations as measured by the study.
· Use of biased language and industry spin. For instance, the report says that “only a fraction” of Notices of Violation (NOVs) were issued for environmental violations. That fraction turns out to be 38%, which is technically a fraction, but this kind of language is extremely misleading at best.
· Artificial “peer review” process. The press release for the report originally claimed that the report was “peer reviewed,” but this appears to have been a media ploy designed to suggest that the study met high academic standards. The report press release has since retracted this claim, and one reviewer has distanced himself from the report’s main claims.
Turns out that the new “shale studies” institute at U of B really was just a PR front all along. Surprise
That was funneling money from University of Wyoming (yet another frack ‘ho ?) to pay for PR puff pieces on fracking
Update U of B shale shamstitute outlines how to turn a university into an academic frack ho’
The plan is to sell reports favorable to the industry in exchange for industry support . . . repeat
Under a university imprimatur – as the ultimate PR platform
U of B pitches the Shale $hamstitute to donors as if it were an investment in PR favorable to the frackers . . .
The return on investment the Shale Resources and Society Institute will be thousands of times if the Institute is supported with the necessary resources, and is allowed to play a major role in shaping the regulatory and policy debate for New York. This return will be expressed not only in increased grant and external support . . .
So the Shale Shill PR site has been shut down to public access – so they can re-tool their spin
Update : University of Buffalo denies the Shale Shamstitute’s paper was “peer reviewed”
Shale research questioned
By KEVIN BEGOS (Associated Press)
Published: May 26, 2012
PITTSBURGH – 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, Ph.D., was lead author on a shale gas report recently issued by the University at Buffalo and a previous report from Penn State. Critics say both reports presented research in misleading ways and failed to fully disclose funding sources.
Dr. 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.
“Taken together, the serious flaws in the report, industry-friendly spin, strong industry ties, and fundraising plans raise serious questions about the Shale Resources and Society Institute’s independence and the University at Buffalo’s decision to lend its independent, academic authority to the Institute’s work,” the critique said.
Some say Dr. Considine and the University at Buffalo could easily have avoided the controversies over transparency.
“It sounds like a moral blind spot,” said Stephen Satris, a professor of philosophy at the Clemson University Rutland Institute for Ethics.
In 2010, Penn State administrators retracted the original version of a report on the economic impact of Marcellus Shale natural gas, noting that Dr. Considine and his co-authors made “a clear error” in not disclosing that the report was funded by an industry group, as well as “flaws in the way the report was written and presented to the public.”
This week, the University at Buffalo published a correction to Dr. Considine’s report on environmental regulations involving the Marcellus Shale, noting that an initial claim that it went through an independent peer-review process “may have given readers an incorrect impression.”
Dr. Considine is the director of the UW Center for Energy Economics & Public Policy, and the group’s website includes a page called “Outside Organizations.” It contains links to the American Gas Association, the American Petroleum Institute, the Natural Gas Supply Association and the International Society for Industrial Ecology.
Maybe because it was a thinly veiled fracking PR piece . . . that glossed over what goes on in Pa.
Clean Water Action released a report examining the enforcement actions taken in 2011 by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) against Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling companies whose operations violated the law. Of the1,192 violations issued for 2011 only 37% received an enforcement action at all. Further, only 6% of violations resulted in any monetary fines.
“It’s incomprehensible that natural gas companies have committed over a thousand violations, yet most got just a warning ticket from DEP,” said Myron Arnowitt, PA State Director for Clean Water Action. “This raises serious concern as to whether DEP is deterring them from operating in an irresponsible and illegal way.”
Update – UB Shale $hamstitute credibility is already starting to fall apart
University of Buffalo may have become a place for frackers to launder PR money
Frackers might want to get their money back – or give it to shale shills that can do arithmetic . .
Check the math: Study touting ‘safer’ fracking reveals Big Oil’s ties to academia
By Sharon Kelly
What do you call a report that makes major math mistakes, pulls language directly from other publications without citation, and fails to disclose the researchers’ financial conflicts of interest?
In the fight over fracking, it might just be called “peer-reviewed” science.
The most recent example of such sketchy research comes from the University of Buffalo, which released a report [PDF] this month concluding that fracking is getting safer and pointing for proof to Pennsylvania, ground zero for drilling.
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.
Let’s deconstruct: The study’s key claim is that the rate of major environmental violations in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale declined from 2008 to 2011. But a look at the study’s data shows that, using the researchers’ own methodology, the rate of major environmental accidents actually increased by more than 30 percent.
Large chunks of the report appear to be lifted verbatim from a document previously published by three of the report’s four authors for a conservative think tank called the Manhattan Institute. This matters because the university study fails to cite the think tank. In this case, it’s very relevant: The Manhattan Institute receives financial support from oil and gas companies heavily invested in fracking, like ExxonMobil. Instead, the study released this month is stamped only with the University of Buffalo’s academic imprimatur.
These problems and more are discussed in a detailed (unreleased) assessment by the Public Accountability Initiative (PAI), a nonprofit research and educational organization focused on corporate and government accountability. It highlights the worsening problem of universities getting into bed with industries and compromising research in the process.
The University of Buffalo report leaves out other key information — like the fact that when Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R)took office in 2011, his new top environmental regulator sent around a memo telling inspectors that they had to get approvalfrom political appointees before issuing violations to Marcellus drillers. That order was retracted after it leaked to the press, but by that time the message to state workers was pretty clear.
The Buffalo report also sidelines entire categories of violations as “administrative” rather than “environmental” — often without clear information about the nature of the offense.
Some media outlets failed to do their homework and too quickly ran with the report. Forbes, for example, went with: “Fracking Safety Improves Dramatically Says Independent Study.”
Press people at the University of Buffalo pitched the report extensively as a rare good-news opportunity for the controversy-riddled fracking issue. The lack of regulation of fracking in places — quite especially in Pennsylvania — has been extensively documented.
The University of Buffalo’s study offered an alternate reality.
It’s worth giving some context on Considine. As the folks at PAI point out, both Considine and fellow report author Robert Watson also wrote a controversial 2009 report [PDF] issued under the auspices of Penn State but funded by the natural gas industry group known as the Marcellus Shale Committee.
Penn State retracted the initial version of the report because it did not disclose its funding source and “may well have crossed the line from policy analysis to policy advocacy,” according to the school’s dean of Earth and Mineral Sciences.
Other authors and reviewers of the report from Buffalo have undisclosed ties to industry, which are detailed in the review by PAI.
The University of Buffalo is partly to blame for not vetting its own study a bit better. In fact, the university may have been a bit too eager to publicize the report. The press release originally described the study as “peer-reviewed,” a term usually reserved for research meticulously reviewed by experts before publication in an academic journal. But it turned out that the report was only circulated for comment to five people, most of whom have industry ties — and the lone environmentalist among the bunch has distanced himself from its findings, according to PAI.
“This description may have given readers an incorrect impression,” the website now notes in a retraction.
Unfortunately, when academia allows the media to run with “incorrect impressions,” including ones created by seriously flawed data, the damage may already be done.
Sharon Kelly is an attorney and freelance writer who lives in Philadelphia. She has reported for The New York Times, National Wildlife, and the Legal Intelligencer, and a variety of other publications.
‘Peer-reviewed’ label pulled from UB shale study6:31 PM, May. 23, 2012
ALBANY — The University at Buffalo has removed the “peer-reviewed” label from a document touting a recent study on natural-gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing, acknowledging that it may have given an “incorrect impression.”
Last week, the UB Shale Resources and Society Institute released its first study, which analyzed more than three years of regulatory violations in Pennsylvania’s portion of the gas-rich Marcellus Shale formation. The authors concluded the number of environmental fouls compared to the total number of wells drilled dropped from 58.2 percent in 2008 to 30.5 percent in 2010.
Originally, the university touted the study as “peer reviewed, a process of self-regulation to maintain standards and provide greater credibility.” By Wednesday, an “editor’s note” was attached to the top of the original news release that detailed the study.
“An earlier version of this story described the report as ‘peer-reviewed,”‘ the note reads. “This description may have given readers an incorrect impression.”
In general, peer-reviewed studies are submitted to a scholarly journal and subjected to a lengthy oversight process by scholars.
The news release was edited to read that drafts of the UB study were “reviewed by several individuals with expertise in related areas, who provided comments to the authors.” The edit was made to “more accurately describe the process by which the report’s authors gathered comments before finalizing their report,” according to the editor’s note.
UB spokesman John DellaContrada said in an email Wednesday: “We clarified the term ‘peer-reviewed’ as described in the press release after receiving feedback from faculty.”
Last week, the authors of the study said the research shows Pennsylvania’s regulations have become effective at mitigating environmental impacts.
“While prior research has anecdotally reviewed state regulations, now we have comprehensive data that demonstrates, without ambiguity, that state regulation coupled with improvements in industry practices results in a low risk of an environmental event occurring in shale development, and the risks continue to diminish year after year,” Timothy Considine, a University of Wyoming professor who co-authored the study, said in a statement.
Scott Anderson, senior policy advisor with the Environmental Defense Fund’s Energy Program, called several of the report’s conclusions “questionable.”
Anderson was one of five experts who reviewed drafts of the report, according to the university.
“While I was a reviewer, this does not mean that all of my suggestions were taken or that I agree with all of the report’s opinions and conclusions,” Anderson wrote on the Environmental Defense Fund’s website.
In particular, Anderson took issue with the authors of the report separating “environmental” violations from “administrative” violations, the “narrow” definition they gave to environmental violations, and the suggestion that Pennsylvania’s regulations have been effective because the rate of violations has dropped.
“In sum, there’s a lot of good information to be gleaned from the study, but caution should be exercised with regards to some of the conclusions,” he wrote.
The report was written by Considine; John Martin, co-director of the UB Shale Institute; and Pennsylvania State University researcher Robert Watson.
Watson and Considine have authored previous studies financially underwritten by industry or business-backed groups, including a three-part Penn State study funded by a gas-industry trade group and a 2011 report funded by the Manhattan Institute.
Some portions of the UB study were updated extensions of those in the Manhattan Institute report, which had sought to place a cost on New York’s de facto moratorium on high-volume hydrofracking. The Manhattan Institute report looked at the Pennsylvania environmental violations between 2008 and 2010, while the UB report included some 2011 figures.
DellaContrada said Wednesday that the UB study was funded by its College of Arts and Sciences, which “processes its funding through the UB Foundation,” the school’s separate fundraising arm.
The report “was not funded by or commissioned by external sources, including industry,” he said. “The Shale Institute does not have any external funding.”
New York sits atop a significant portion of the Marcellus and Utica shale formations, though the state has yet to allow any high-volume hydrofracking. The much-debated technique used with gas drilling is on hold until the state Department of Environmental Conservation completes a regulatory and environmental review.
There’s a new Shale $hamstitute there to crank out fracking happy talk
By authors that are thinly disguised fracking shills
Which we flagged as such when it was announced :
Who may have found a way to laundry frackers’ money – via a foundation
So that they can say that their reports weren’t paid for by frackers
Which would make them, what ? Fracking shills ?
Buck Quiqley lays it out :
The industry gets what they want = happy talk with a university imprimatur
And the Shale $hamstitute gets what it wants = funding
Bill Huston and Buck Quiqley connect the dots:
From the Ithaca Journal:
“The peer-reviewed report was the first released by the school’s shale institute, which was launched in April to study shale-gas drilling. The study was funded entirely by the University at Buffalo and did not receive industry funding, according to Martin, one of the report’s authors.”
This is repeated in a piece from CBS:
http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505245_162-57435401/ny-report-state-regs-reduce-gas-drilling-impacts/“All three of the report’s lead authors have ties to the energy industry as well as being academicians, butinstitute Director John Martin said the study was funded entirely by the University at Buffalo with no industry support.”
However, this is contradicted by Buck Quigley / ARTVOICE:UB spokesperson John DellaContrada told us a few weeks back that “philanthropic support [for the institute] is pending from a variety of potential funders.” Today we left a message asking him about the new report. He sent a three-word email reply. “Funded by UB.” We asked for a little more clarity. He then told us that the new report wasn’t funded by UB, but in fact the money came from the University at Buffalo Foundation.
The University of Buffalo Foundation operates in secret (until next year when tax forms are published) and is not subject to FOIL:
“…Judge Patrick NeMoyer agreed with the attorneys for Hodgson Russ. The foundations are not subject to FOIL, nor to the Open Meeting Law. Any information they relinquish to the public or press would be done strictly as a courtesy. No access to records. “
So absent of a subpeona, there is no way to independently verify the accuracy of the statement about funding not coming from industry.
Gannett should not publish such statements, which have great PR value to the gas industry, BUT which cannot be verified, especially when there is proven industry connections with all players at the Buffalo Shale Institute, and the related institute @ SUNY Fredonia.