Energy. Environment. Economy.

DEP gives gas industry group $150,000 grant to study drilling

Drilling waste at a natural gas site in Tioga County. The DEP has given an industry-backed nonprofit $150,000 grant to study the effects of drilling.

Joe Ulrich/ WITF

Drilling waste at a natural gas site in Tioga County. The DEP has given an industry-backed nonprofit $150,000 grant to study the effects of drilling, including its waste.

The state Department of Environmental Protection has awarded a $150,000 non-competitive grant to an industry-backed nonprofit organization. The money was allocated in last year’s state budget specifically for “independent research regarding natural gas drilling.”

As StateImpact Pennsylvania previously reported, the grant recipient is a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit called the Shale Alliance for Energy Research (SAFER PA). It formed in 2013 as a partnership between industry and academia. Its board has three representatives from Pennsylvania universities and five members from the oil and gas industry.

Other groups were not able to compete for the grant money because the DEP said SAFER PA is “the only known research organization that is comprised of both private and public entities … with a specific focus of conducting scientific research and development of shale related projects.”

SAFER PA has never published any research. The DEP has not responded to repeated inquiries about the grant.

Barry Kauffman, of the nonpartisan government reform group Common Cause PA, finds the deal concerning.

“There are many, many qualified organizations with good research credentials that could produce unbiased research—or certainly more balanced research—than an entity heavily dominated by the industry which it contends to take a look at,” he says.

SAFER PA has published one report on its website– a handbook for homeowners with private water wells. The booklet was written by Groundwater and Environmental Services, Inc. — an engineering company that does the majority of its business with oil and gas companies.

SAFER PA’s president, Patrick Findle, heads the Pittsburgh office of the Gas Technology Institute– an Illinois-based nonprofit that conducts research for gas companies. Two years ago Findle was the research committee vice chair of the gas industry group, the Marcellus Shale Coalition.

In an email to StateImpact Pennsylvania, Findle said SAFER PA represents a diverse set of interests– not just the industry.

“One of our main differentiators is that we are independent, balanced organization conducting focused research and analysis. We follow the science to generate research and information,” he wrote. “Our Board is a balanced makeup of universities, industry, environmental, engineering and research companies.”

SAFER PA intends to track the waste generated by shale development and create an online training tool for the DEP about erosion and sediment control related to oil and gas activities.



  • JimBarth

    I’d laugh, but it hurts too much. SNAFU.

  • Joseph Brentano

    The last time I heard there was “good” justification for a non compete for government crony capitalism money …..Halliburton. Pennsylvania now has there own miniature Dick Cheney. I wait for the “study” results with abated breath.

  • env121

    This doesn’t surprise me. That money could have given us 1 or 2 more DEP inspectors, but they chose to give it to industry.

  • keith hinkel

    No need for DEP there is EPA! Besides Pa is broke–$2 billion in debt! Now they give away $150,000? Wolf had better NOT try crying for a tax increase! Plus where are the taxes the gas industry is to pay Pa? Corbett did not want it. $$$2 Billion in debt!

  • DeanMarshall
  • Brian Oram

    Very nice booklet – we put out another booklet with more detail – (NO funding)

  • AlSever

    Not as bad as when DEP gave thousands of dollars to the Erie County Audubon society to study Innovative methods of lawn care. And forget about the bottomless rat hole of the Legacy sediments scam that a certain DEP Sec’s spouse made millions on.

  • paulroden

    The EPA was embarked on a environmental and health impact study on fracking and it was stopped by industry pressure. The EPA is prohibited by the Energy Policy Reform Act of 2005 from regulating or enforcing environmental laws on fracking. The industry, other than state laws are not in the EPA’s jurisdiction, thanks to former Halliburton CEO and now former Vice President Dick Chaney’s “Energy Taskforce’” drafting of the this law. It makes in legal that the “foxes are guarding the hen houses.” The drilling industry is off the hook for complying with the Clean Water, Clear Air, Safe Drinking Water and Resource Recovery and Conservation Acts. Don’t you feel protected and safe by this law? And the PA DEP, DOH and DCNR have all been handicapped and gagged by staff and budget cuts, weakened enforcement rules, explosive drilling permit requests and numerous drilling operations. All potential violations, have to be first approved in the Governor’s office before being given to a driver or drill operator. So that is why I call the PA DEP, the Don’t Expect Protection department, the PA DOH, as the don’t offer help department and the DCNR as the Department of Consumable Natural Resources. At every level, the foxes are guarding the hen houses, with more hen houses and more foxes coming online everyday. Can have agencies, running amok trying to enforce “burdensome regulations” interfering with their holy profits from gas extraction.

    • Jack Wolf

      The EPA’s bottom up approach in the accounting of emissions has been found to understate actual emission by half. Furthermore, they understate the global warming potential of methane. They use the 100 year potential of 20 rather than the potential in time frames relevant to you and I. When methane is emitted, it is over 150 times more powerful than CO2, and the warming effect is immediate. Considering the emergency that’s going on in the Arctic, we need accurate figures. A group of scientists wrote to the administration this past summer. To date, nothing has been done. Here is the letter:

  • Jack Wolf

    This ain’t right.

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