More Ties to Activists, New Questions Over Publication Status in UC Groundwater Fracking Study

by Jackie Stewart, Energy in Depth

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 So why then is this latest study still unpublished?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 CitizensThree 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 ResearchNewsweek, 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, & 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 haveno 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.
Copyright Energy in Depth. Reprinted with permission. View original article:

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