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Penn State faculty balks at fracking study

A group of natural gas drillers has canceled a Pennsylvania State University study of the controversial natural gas extraction process known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” According to a Bloomberg report, faculty members refused to participate in the process, which had drawn criticism for being pro-industry.

The Marcellus Shale Coalition had paid more than $146,000 for three previous studies. The industry group ended this year’s report after work had started, Bloomberg reports.

Former Penn State professor Tim Considine wrote the previous studies. Considine is now an economist at the University of Wyoming who has produced research on economic and energy issues under contract to trade associations.

The first study, in 2009, initially failed to disclose its industry funding and was used by lawmakers to kill a state tax on gas drillers. Groups such as the nonprofit Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center in Harrisburg dismissed it as advocacy for natural gas producers.

The fracking method of natural gas drilling involves injecting millions of gallons of chemically treated water underground to break up subterranean rock formations and release trapped pockets of natural gas. Opponents have a number of environmental concerns, including the possibility of chemicals in the fracking water – such as the carcinogen benzene – leaching into drinking water.

Bloomberg says fracking has been linked to groundwater contamination in Pennsylvania, high ozone levels in Wyoming and headaches, sore throats and difficulty breathing for people living close to wells in Colorado.

The Marcellus Shale natural gas reserve extends into sections of New York, Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and West Virginia, and has been a source of dispute in the various states.

According to Bloomberg, the externally funded study can’t be researched and published under Penn State’s name without at least one full-time faculty member.

Bloomberg has previously reported that drilling companies are funding university research specifically designed to counter complaints about fracking, leading at least two schools to examine their external relationships to industry groups.

Lopez McHugh is investigating injuries related to natural gas extraction in the Marcellus Shale natural gas reserve. If you have significant injuries, contact a Lopez McHugh attorney for a free evaluation.

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