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FALL 2010
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Sidebar: Applied Social Sciences

The Scientific Evidence: Cornell and PRI Partner to Create New Resources

The Paleontological Research Institution (PRI) in Ithaca received a $100,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to pull together the scientific evidence on natural gas drilling. The Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and Cornell Cooperative Extension are partnering with PRI on the project.

The rapid response grant—which was awarded to PRI within months of their application—will distill information available on the Marcellus Shale and the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing. The information will be disseminated in communities underlain by the Marcellus Shale in New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio.

PRI will cover the earth science aspects of natural gas drilling, while Cornell Cooperative Extension will focus on information about water and land use impacts, leasing, economic development, local and state regulations, and rural development.

“Our outreach campaign strives to provide objective information, not for or against gas development, but rather aiming to help stakeholders make scientifically-informed decisions,” says Robert Ross, associate director for outreach at PRI. “It’s clear that we need more comprehensive, evidence-based resources to aid public understanding of these complex issues.”

Specific plans for outreach efforts include a user-friendly guide to the earth science of drilling in the Marcellus Shale, available online and in print, a comprehensive source for the scientific information with an emphasis on geology and hydrology research.

After the first generation of resources, there will be several programs in communities in the Marcellus Shale region.

For the most current information, see

Natural Gas Resource Development Center:

Museum of the Earth’s outreach page:


What’s Next?
The Environmental Impact Statement

Communities in New York are waiting for the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation to issue a Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement that will define the guidelines for drilling in New York.

The document will spell out specific requirements like monitoring water, inspections, and providing public information on accidents. Once it is released, companies can begin drilling in New York.

The state issued a draft statement in September 2009, which was open for public comments. Faculty members from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences contributed comments recommending a variety of changes including monitoring of private wells, land use, and minimizing environmental risks.

To read faculty members' comments to the draft statement: