Who Funded the University of Cincinnati Study Finding No Water Contamination From Fracking?

Ever since the results of a new University of Cincinnati’s groundwater study finding no contamination from hydraulic fracturing were announced at a town meeting several weeks ago, (see EID’s video of the results here) many questions have been raised about the funding of the study. Here are the myths and the facts:

Claim: UC says the study was not funded by taxpayers. The Times Reporter stated last week that UC said state and federal funding “did not fund the water sampling campaign.”

Fact:  The study actually could not have been conducted without the taxpayer funded tools to determine the findings. According to UC’s own press release:

“Funding for the UC study was supported in coordination with …the Ohio Board of Regents… were also awarded a $400,000, 3-year grant from the National Science Foundation (EAR-1229114) for an isotope ratio mass spectrometer. The instrument measures the stable isotope composition of methane, which can indicate whether it is derived from biological activity or natural gas.” (emphasis added)

Moreover, according to the terms of the National Science Foundation grant, UC is required to produce the results of this study. As the National Science Foundation’s grant award for the projects states:

“Results from research projects using this instrumentation will be disseminated through student and faculty presentations at national and international scientific meetings, publications in peer-reviewed journals, and online data repositories.”

As the US Chamber has correctly pointed out, neglecting to produce a formal report of their findings, “looks to be in violation of the grant the University of Cincinnati used to fund its research.”  The Ohio Chamber of Commerce has also weighed in explaining,

“Taxpayers also helped fund the U.C. study. State law, and common sense, says that if tax dollars were used to conduct this type of research, the results must be made public.

As Rep. Andy Thompson said,

“It is unacceptable that taxpayers have funded this important groundwater study and the findings are now being kept from the public.”

Claim: UC says the study was not funded by activists. The university claims that it did not receive any money from industry or activists.  Directly from the UC’s own Frequently Asked Questions of the study:

“We are not funded in any way by energy or fracking companies or by anti-fracking groups. Our funding comes from two non-profit, philanthropic organizations, the Deer Creek Foundation and the Alice Weston Foundation. We also receive private donations from individuals.”

Fact: That’s not exactly accurate. The study received over 18 percent of its funding from the Deer Creek Foundation. As the Chamber of Commerce uncovered this week, Deer Creek Foundation 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.”

EID also uncovered that Deer Creek Foundation 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.

Furthermore, the lead researcher for the UC Groundwater Study, Dr. Townsend-Small, said at a recent public meeting hosted by the anti-fracking Carroll County Concerned Citizens (CCCC):

“I’m really sad to say this but some of our funders, the groups that had given us funding in the past, were a little disappointed in our results. They feel that fracking is scary and so they were hoping our data could point to a reason to ban it.” (emphasis added)

In other words, taxpayers funded the tools to analyze the water samples while the funding for taking the samples themselves came from anti-fracking activists.

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