Probe closes UB research institute

Staff/Wire Reports

The University at Buffalo  Monday closed its seven-month-old shale gas research institute, which was under investigation by the State University Board of Trustees after a group of professors accused it of having undisclosed ties to industry.

UB President Satish Tripathi acknowledged that the university’s policies governing disclosure of financial interests had been “inconsistently applied” and the appearance of independence and integrity of the institute’s research impacted.

“Research of such considerable societal importance and impact cannot be effectively conducted with a cloud of uncertainty over its work,” Tripathi said in a letter to the university community announcing the closure. He said the decision followed an internal assessment of the institute.

The safety of drilling the Marcellus Shale in Steuben County has been the subject of fierce debate.

Supporters say drilling is safe and would bring in much-needed revenues for landowners, municipalities and the county.

Opponents charge drilling would have a irreversible effect on the area’s water supply and could imperil residents health in the future.

Environmental groups have been critical of the institute since May, a month after its opening, when it released its first report. The report concluded that state regulators in Pennsylvania have improved oversight of the gas drilling industry and New York’s regulations will prevent major environmental impacts. The university at first said the study was peer-reviewed, but later withdrew that statement.

A coalition of faculty, staff, students and alumni subsequently questioned the report’s academic integrity and called for an inquiry into the institute’s industry ties.