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Fracking issue resonates at UB


With a campus controversy about natural gas fracking, the University at Buffalo is taking a look at the way it reports donations from industry for research.

The issue at UB revolves around the Shale Research Institute run by faculty of the Geology Department.

While its news releases and its first report were prepared by faculty members working within what administrators call the standard procedures used for all of the university's 150 research centers and institutes, the fight revolves around a lecture series involving a few thousand dollars paid by the oil and gas industry.

"Every single speaker at that series, all eight were pro-fracking, seven of them were oil and gas," said English professor Jim Holstun.

"That lecture series was secretly funded by oil and gas companies to the tune of $12,500. This money was not acknowledged in public and this is absolutely contrary to academic policy."

University Provost Charles Zukoski is appointing a committee to review policies and practices involving outside money going into UB research, something he says is routine. He says there are rules that must be observed.

The fracking issue has become increasingly complicated as Albany's review of the process to produce natural gas continues to run on.

Yesterday, Governor Cuomo said he won't bring in outside groups to do the review, saying the state will do the research itself.
"A number of environmental groups had come in and stated, basically, a unified position that there should be an independent review, an independent public health review," Cuomo said. "Our position is an independent health review is inappropriate."

The Environmental Conservation Department has brought the State Health Department into the review process to look at health concerns.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.