Friday, September 16, 2011

Heinz Foundation Sought to Buy Academic Activism, But Fired Pitt When It Balked

My blog is time- and inclination-dependent.  And when I do have the time, or the inclination, I try to aim toward original content, rather than the much easier amplification upon the work of others — a shortcut which seems to define so much of the blogosphere.

(If you're also interested in my occasional, quick-and-easy amplification, just follow me on Twitter.)

But, in this case, I make an exception.

This is an easily lost story from the Sept. 7 edition of The Pitt News, the daily student newspaper of the University of Pittsburgh.  It is an innocent, unknowing, worldwide scoop by a student journalist that, to date, no one in the mainstream media has picked up on.  

In fact, not even the rabid, conservative outlets seem to have taken notice.

That lack of bounce makes no sense to me.  And, having been a highly pumped student journalist once myself, I find that sort of non-response disheartening — to say the least.

In a nutshell, this story is a very quiet smoking gun, exposing the fact that well-endowed representatives of the left wing in America shop for, and buy, political advocacy from within the halls of academia — openly, and without fear of shame, or exposure. 

They don't even seem to think there's anything wrong with it. 

And, when they don't get the kind of rabble-rousing they want — from within the Ivory Tower — they simply take their money elsewhere.

It's true that business interests also throw around a lot of money, and swing around a lot of influence.  But they are usually wayyy more subtle about it.
Pitt loses Marcellus Shale research funds
By: Mallory Grossman / News Editor
Posted on 07. Sep, 2011 in News

Heinz Endowments will no longer fund Marcellus Shale gas drilling research at Pitt because the school focused too much on research and not enough on advocacy.

The University will continue to research the public health impact surrounding Marcellus Shale gas drilling, but Pitt will no longer run programs such as, an online tool collecting data on the drilling.

Heinz Endowments previously funded the FracTracker database at Pitt with an $1,800,000 grant. The foundation is currently seeking a new place to run its programs.

The foundation supports projects that aim to improve quality of life in the Pittsburgh region, and focuses on five disciplines which are represented by their grant programs: arts and culture, children, youth and families, education, environment and innovation economy, according to their web site.

The withdrawn funding marks an end to one of the most prolific projects for the Center for Healthy Environments & Communities (CHEC), part of the Graduate School of Public Health. The center has also had two directors in the past year, and the position is currently vacant.

Despite withdrawal of funding for the programs, Allison Schlesinger, a spokeswoman for Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health, said Pitt will continue to do research around Marcellus Shale drilling.

“We will continue to do that research, they’re just not funding it,” Schlesinger said.

Heinz Endowment officials were not immediately available for comment.

Despite the removal of research programs, Schlesinger said that CHEC is still grateful for the funding from the endowments for its other programs.

She said GSPH and Heinz Endowments will “continue to work together to find a permanent home for and to establish joint research priorities.”

Heinz Endowments founded CHEC in 2004 under a grant, and it will continue to fund multiple research programs at the center on air quality, water quality and other public health issues that impact southwestern Pennsylvania, Schlesinger said.

Schlesinger said Heinz Endowments will no longer fund Marcellus Shale research programs at Pitt because the center favors research over advocacy.

She said Heinz Endowments officials feel CHEC is not doing enough community outreach and advocacy based on the research.

“CHEC has become uncomfortable with outreach,” Schlesinger said. “We are a University research center, of course we favor research. That’s what we’re supposed to do.”

Schlesinger said that while the school doesn’t oppose advocacy and outreach, its primary job is research. She said advocacy and outreach must be research-based.

The same issue of research versus advocacy caused former director of the center, Dr. Conrad “Dan” Volz Jr., to resign in April. His successor and former dean of GSPH, Dr. Bernard Goldstein, also recently resigned from the position.

The Pitt News reported in April that Volz said he left because his beliefs concerning environmental advocacy and public health did not match those of the University, especially when it came to Marcellus Shale drilling.

The former Pitt professor is an open critic of Marcellus Shale drilling and said that the University was not allowing him to openly voice his dissent, so he left of his own accord.

In the month prior to his resignation, Volz published controversial research linking drilling to contaminated drinking water, specifically citing high levels of bromide in the Josephine brine treatment facility in Indiana County, Pa.

Schlesinger said Goldstein was also an advocate against natural gas drilling and spoke out at numerous community events.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Tropical Storm Lee Dumps On Upstate
Anybody Need Any Frack Water?

The Chenango River — at a point just downstream of Chenango Forks, NY — is currently running in excess of 20,000 cubic feet per second.  I haven't been paying very close attention, but I'm assuming that this Fall Flood of 2011 will be credited to some leftover dampness from Tropical Storm Lee.

That big a flow translates to more than 12 billion gallons per day running past the point where the U.S. Geological Survey has long maintained a station, tucked behind the golf course at Chenango Valley State Park.  Robotically updated, up-to-the-hour data from this riverside sampling point, and 241 others just in New York, are all online here (and very handy for both canoeists and downstream homeowners).

I realize this is an extreme amount of water, and an extreme situation, and it hopefully won't stay that way for very long. 

But, just as a thought experiment, consider this... 

Once the NYS DEC and the Susquehanna River Basin Commission allow the enterprise of shale gas drilling to finally get a move-on in NY, what would the limits be if industry was permitted to use just 1 percent of what's flowing right now at Chenango Forks?

That would give the hydrofrackers a supply of 120 million gallons per day, without even touching the other 99 percent left to run downstream.

Needing 5 million gallons to hydraulically fracture a single horizontal shale gas well, that would be enough for 24 wells per day — far, far more, and far, far faster, than NYS will ever see happen.

And yet the drilling opposition continues to score points with mathematically illiterate folks who chose careers in politics or journalism — with many still preferring to wring their collective hands over the spectre of a fracking-induced water shortage.