Controversy still simmers over SUNY Buffalo Shale Institute

Sep 7, 2012

Shortly after opening its doors at this spring, the Shale Resources and Society Institute (SRSI) ignited a controversy that persists several months later.

The newly-founded SUNY Buffalo institute issued a study which found a decline in accidents and environmental damage caused by hydrofracking – a drilling technique using high volumes of water, sand and chemicals to extract natural gas from shale far below the Earth’s surface.

Opponents call the study flawed and biased in favor of the oil and gas industry.

The dispute attracted national attention, especially in the higher education community

The study was written before the official launch of SRSI and was released under its banner without significant new changes from anyone working at SUNY Buffalo. 

While the report’s authors admit a handful of small errors, they stand behind it and SUNY Buffalo administrators insist the institute was fulfilling its pledge to act as an information hub on fracking.

Still, on August 23rd, more than 80 professors from SUNY Buffalo signed a public letter calling for SRSI to fully disclose all documents related to its founding and funding.

The ongoing episode raises questions about how objective fracking research can truly be – and whether a public university, which willingly entered the topic’s often-fractious debate, can successfully navigate continued criticism.

For more on this story from the Innovation Trail and others from Daniel Robison, visit


The Innovation Trail is a collaboration between six upstate New York public media outlets. The initiative, funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), helps the public gain a better understanding of the connection between technological breakthroughs and the revitalization of the upstate New York economy.

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