5/13/16, "Questions raised over activist ties to UC groundwater study," Ohio.com, (Akron Beacon Journal), Bob Downing
From Jackie Stewart, "Energy in Depth-Ohio":
"The National Association of Royalty Owners recently called upon the University of Cincinnati (UC) to publish its recent study on fracking and groundwater properly, in a peer-reviewed public journal, something the authors have confirmed is underway.
While this news may appear promising, the reality is the study’s data, which showed "no evidence for natural gas contamination” and was paid for by activists and taxpayers, was in fact concluded almost a year ago. EID recently discovered that another UC taxpayer funded fracking study only took three months to publish! So why then is this latest study still unpublished?
One possibility is that some of the funders—those with ties to the anti-fracking movement who initially stalled the release of the results—have asked for more time to prepare to dispute the data. While this is speculation, it is a fact that anti-fracking groups are trying to discredit the data to achieve their “Keep It in the Ground” aims, as EID recently caught on film. Interestingly enough, we have also discovered that the University of Cincinnati has been lending its name to a host of anti-fracking events, and will participate in an upcoming event hosted by the Southeast Ohio Alliance to Save Our Water from Fracking.
Let’s take a look at some of the latest revelations.
UC Taxpayer Funded Fracking Air Study Published in Less than Year
In January 2014, UC announced a new study to determine air quality impacts of oil and natural gas. UC’s Center for Environmental Genetics (CEG) received federal tax dollars for this study in the form of a grant from the NIH’s National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) for $47,910. The results of that study were made available a year later (January 2015) at a meeting hosted by the anti-fracking activist Carroll Concerned Citizens. Three months later (March 2015), UC announced that the fracking study on air quality was published and peer-reviewed in Environmental Science and Technology.
The authors of the study found elevated polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) levels near shale natural gas wells in Carroll County, Ohio, but admitted that the sample size used for their study was too small and the that chief assumption used for their research model was “totally impractical,” according to multiple media reports. Yet that didn’t impede the study from being published in a peer-reviewed journal in less than 90 days, nor did it prevent headlines such as, “Fracking may cause air pollution, respiratory issues,” and “Fracking could increase risk of cancer, new study finds”.
Groundwater Study Still Not Published in Peer-Reviewed Journal
By comparison, the UC groundwater study findings were announced in February 2016 once again at a Carroll Concerned Citizens meeting. According to an email from the lead author, Dr. Amy Townsend Small, to the National Association of Royalty Owner’s (NARO), UC is “currently working to prepare these data for publication in a peer-reviewed journal”. In other words, they are just beginning the process to publish after four months.
Why is there such a difference in the effort for publication this time around? Perhaps it could be that the headlines for the data from this taxpayer and activist funded study, included examples like “University of Cincinnati study finds fracking’s bad rap is not supported”. As American Thinker reported,
“This is a scandal that goes to the heart of the relationship between science and public policy and the reliability of global warming doomsayers. The scandal was broken in a small town newspaper, the Free Press-Standard of Carroll County, Ohio and only gradually made its way to the national media via Jeff Stier of the National Center for Public Policy Research, Newsweek, and Jazz Shaw of Hot Air.”
Ban-Fracking Activists Funded the UC Study, Not “Industry”
While the authors of the study drag their feet to publish, the anti-fracking community is already out in full force twisting the facts and providing misinformation to the public.
Recently EID caught protestors in the spin zone trying to say that the groundwater study was not credible because it was “funded by industry”, when it was actually funded by ban-fracking activists and taxpayers. Take a look at what EID caught on film at a ban-fracking rally:
Ban Fracking Activist to EID: “An industry paid study is not valid. So quit citing it”
EID: “The University of Cincinnati study was an industry study?”
Ban Fracking Activist: “I do not care. It’s an industry paid for study.”
EID: “Are you saying the University of Cincinnati Study was industry paid? “
Ban Fracking Activist: “Yes I am, I’m saying yes, absolutely”
In fact, 18 percent of the funding for the water sampling came from the Deer Creek Foundation, which also gave $25,000 to the Media Alliance in Oakland, Calif. for a documentary on the “rise of ‘extreme’ oil and gas extraction – fracking, tar sands development, and oil drilling in the Arctic” as well as $20,000 to the Northern Plains Resource Council, a Montana activist group that states on its website, “Fracking damages water, land and wildlife.” The Deer Creek Foundation also donated at least $20,000 to WildEarth Guardians, which is a key player in the “Keep it in the Ground” anti-fossil fuel movement that has been especially active in Ohio lately.
Meanwhile, 100 percent of the funding for the tools and equipment used to analyze the water samples came from state and federal tax payers.
UC Professors Continue to Participate in Ban Fracking Events
Unfortunately the likelihood that anti-fracking bias has been dictating the actions of the researchers has to be considered in this situation. After all, why do UC professors continue to pop up at anti-fracking activist events? Both Dr. Erin Hayes and Dr. Amy Townsend-Small decided to announce their research at events held by activists groups that vocally oppose the oil and gas industry. Next week, UC professors are slated to participate in the Southeast Ohio Alliance to Save Our Water from Fracking event in Columbus. According to group’s website, the conference is,
“A one-day conference for legislators, regulators, healthcare providers and community members on unconventional shale gas development in Ohio and its environmental and public health impacts. With special presenters: Dr. Julie Weatherington-Rice, Raina Rippel, SWPA Environmental Health Project, Associate Professor Erin Haynes, University of Cincinnati, and Professor James O’Reilly, University of Cincinnati, author of “The Law of Fracking” and Dr. Peter Nara.”
UC professor James O’Reilly is no stranger to anti-fracking events. In fact, last year he participated in a “Beyond Fossil Fuel” summit in Kentucky. His book, “The Law of Fracking” is essentially a guide on “how to sue an oil and gas company.” Take a look at the video below. Professor O’Reilly ‘s biography includes significant misinformation about fracking, incorrectly claiming a lack of economic stimulus, the destruction of county roads, and gross impacts to agriculture jobs, and more.
Professor James O’Reilly: “I’m not a geologist so I can’t say precisely how rapidly the gas is going to dissipate, but it is a significant 3 to 5 years, a 3 to 7 year cycle.”
This is not the first time an agenda-driven professor and supposed “expert” has said they have no scientific credentials in matters relating to shale development. The irony here is that Professor O’Reilly works for the same public university that conducted the strangely delayed groundwater study, the study in which isotope analysis to determine how “rapidly the gas is going to dissipate” over a period of three years and found:
“Based on the carbon and hydrogen stable isotope data along with the relatively consistent measurements within individual’s wells over the study period, we have found no evidence for natural gas contamination from shale oil and gas mining in any of the sampled groundwater wells of our study.”
EID has been following this story since the UC groundwater study was first announced at an anti-fracking meeting in February. We have documented our ongoing research for the past few months, calling attention to various concerns regarding the study. We have tried to give this public university the benefit of the doubt, hoping UC was making a good faith effort to publish its findings. That case, however, is becoming harder and harder to make. Once again, we encourage UC to expedite its efforts to publish this study in a scientific journal, despite the fact that the findings will continue to “disappoint” agenda-driven anti-fracking groups more interested in ideology than science."
"The study concluded in May 2015."...
March 2016 Free Press Standard article:
3/2/16, "University of Cincinnati study finds fracking’s bad rap is not supported," Free Press Standard, by Carol McIntire, Carroll County, Ohio
"A three-year study by the University of Cincinnati in Carroll and surrounding counties determined hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has no effect on groundwater in the Utica shale region, is not being released to the public.
Dr. Amy Townsend-Small, the lead researcher for the University of Cincinnati Department of Geology, released the results during the Feb. 4 meeting of the Carroll County Concerned Citizens in Carrollton.
During her presentation, which was videotaped and is available for viewing on YouTube, Townsend-Small stated, “We haven’t seen anything to show that wells have been contaminated by fracking.”
When asked at that meeting if the university planned to publicize the results, Dr. Amy Townsend-Small, an assistant professor at the University of Cincinnati Department of Geology and the leader of the study, said there were no plans to do so.
“I am really sad to say this, but some of our funders, the groups that had given us funding in the past, were a little disappointed in our results. They feel that fracking is scary and so they were hoping this data could to a reason to ban it,” she said.
Rep. Andy Thompson, R-Marietta, whose district includes Carroll, Harrison and Belmont counties, is calling for the university to release its findings. Thompson noted the study received state funding in the form of an $85,714 grant from the Ohio Board or Regents and federal funding from the National Science Foundation for an isotope ratio mass spectrometer.
“It is unacceptable that taxpayers have funded this important groundwater study and the findings are being kept from the public,” said Thompson. “UC still has not produced a full report of their findings, nor has the university issued a press release of their results. Yet, during the course of the past few years, the university has released countless advisories on the multi-year Groundwater Research of Ohio study. I am calling on the University of Cincinnati Department of Geology to release their full findings surrounding this study immediately. The people of Ohio have funded and deserve to know that private water wells in shale counties have not been impacted.”
The study aimed to measure methane and its sources in groundwater before, during and after the onset of fracking. The study corresponded with an increase in active gas wells in Carroll County from three in late 2011 to 354 in 2015. Wells in three counties listed above as well as Stark and Columbiana were tested. Groundwater from 27 private water wells, ranging from 35 to 115 meters in depth three to four times a year over a two-year period from November 2012 to February 2015. A regional field campaign was also conducted in May 2014 in which 95 groundwater wells were sampled within the five counties. One hundred fifteen samples were collected from drinking water wells and two from springs. Participation in the study was voluntary. [Anti-fracking groups such as the Carroll County Concerned Citizens were among participants.]
A thesis paper submitted by Elizabeth Claire Botner (who participated in the study) as part of the requirements for her master’s degree in science, noted a majority of the study took place in Carroll County primarily for two reasons: 1.) a lack of water quality data exists in the region due and 2.) Carroll County has the greatest number of hydraulic fracturing permits in Ohio.
At the onset of the study, 161 wells were permitted in the county and by the time the study concluded in May 2015, over 400 wells were permitted.
Botner’s paper noted, “dissolved methane was detected in all sampled wells, however, no relationship was found between the methane concentration and proximity to natural gas wells. The highest levels of dissolved methane were observed at sites in Carroll and Stark counties and were more than 5 km from active gas wells.”
Through testing, it was determined that in three of the four sites with elevated levels the source of methane is likely coalbed gas. The other is site is consistent with anaerobic respiration of soil organic carbon.
Botner’s paper also noted, “a small subset of groundwater wells in the Utica Shale region consistently contained elevated methane levels, but stable isotope analysis indicated biological sources.” “While past studies have found evidence for Marcellus Shale-derived natural gas contamination in Pennsylvania drinking water wells due to improper well construction and maintenance, shale gas development firms may be using safer well construction practices in the relatively newer drilling area of the Utica Shale to avoid leakage from the well casings,” she wrote.
She noted, as did Townsend-Small, that continual monitoring of groundwater quality, methane concentration and sources is needed to assess the longer-term impacts of hydraulic fracturing."