Shale institute funding
The University at Buffalo’s shale institute has a budget of more than $177,000 — nearly three-quarters of which is shared by its two co-directors — but none of that money has come from the oil and natural-gas industry, according to a university report.
The UB report about the founding, funding and staffing of its Shale ResourcesSFlband Society Institute was requested by the State University of New York’s board of trustees last month, after campus critics raised concerns about conflicts of interest and the academic integrity of the institute.
Panel on fracking
About 60 students, concerned citizens and economic professionals gathered at Ohio Northern University to discuss the economics and background of hydraulic fracturing in Ohio.
David McClough, an economic professor at ONU, organized the panel as part of the annual meeting of the Ohio Association of Economists and Political Scientists.
It remains a contentious issue in the state because it can be the source of significant job growth and a steady natural-gas resource, but there are also a variety of environmental and public-policy concerns regarding the practice.
Fracking in New York
Environmental groups fighting fracking say Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s order for a new public-health study is a sign he may be backing off his plans to allow the hotly debated extraction process.
While Cuomo insists he has made no decision, he repeatedly has said he will approve fracking if the science shows it can be done safely.
And the study, “if it finds no major threats,” could give him the cover to move forward with more political benefits than hits.
Cuomo administration officials have worried privately that continued loud opposition to fracking could disrupt other policy work and the governor’s re-election campaign without creating a single job.
Notes draw attention
Handwritten notes from the state worker who supervises Tennessee’s regulation of oil and gas production derided opponents of the hydraulic fracturing method of gas drilling as “stupid.”
State documents show the notes were written on emails sent to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation when it solicited public comment on new rules to regulate hydraulic fracturing. Also known as fracking, the process extracts natural gas from rock by injecting high-pressure mixtures of water, sand or gravel and chemicals.
Michael Burton acknowledged making the notes and said they weren’t intended to go public. He said he was venting his frustration on paper and apologized.
A TDEC statement said the department disapproved of Burton’s remarks and talked to him about them. Burton hasn’t been formally disciplined.
Residents sue company
little rock, ark.
A group of residents in Independence and Faulkner counties in Arkansas are suing three natural- gas drilling companies, claiming that waste fluids are improperly being pumped underneath land the companies don’t own or lease.
An amended version of the lawsuit has been filed in U.S. District Court in Little Rock, adding several plaintiffs and two of the drilling companies. The lawsuit seeks class status for affected landowners living above the gas-rich Fayetteville Shale formation in central Arkansas.
Houston-based Southwestern Energy Co. was the only company named in the original version of the suit, which was filed in August. Southwestern Energy filed a motion to dismiss the original suit, arguing the plaintiffs didn’t show they had a claim.
Added to the amended version were Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy Corp. and Fort Worth, Texas-based XTO Energy Inc.
Spokesmen for Chesapeake and XTO declined to comment. Southwestern released a statement saying it complies with regulations and contracts in disposal of drilling waste.
North Dakota wildlife
Not many years ago, northwest North Dakota was considered a sleeper assignment by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials. Ducks in particular “but also sharp-tailed grouse, golden eagles, bitterns, hawks, falcons and countless other species” were bountiful, nurtured in part by quality habitat on the region’s nearly 100 waterfowl production areas.
Offering still more protection to wildlife were thousands of acres of private wetlands and grasslands under federal conservation easement. Then advances in drilling technology sparked North Dakota’s latest oil boom, wildly altering the region’s land and people virtually overnight.
Now semi trucks crisscross the region’s two-lane roads 24 hours a day, seven days a week — some carrying oil, others fresh or salt water. Often, the big vehicles trail long plumes of dust that one county spent $700,000 in nonbudgeted funds last year attempting to control, with little success.
The changes are not good for ducks or other wildlife, including elk, bighorn sheep, mule deer and antelope, in a region whose vitality for millennia has been measured in its unbroken landscape.