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PRI to educate, inform public about Marcellus gas drilling issues with NSF funding

The Paleontological Research Institution (PRI) and its Museum of the Earth, along with colleagues in Cornell's Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE), have been awarded nearly $100,000 from the National Science Foundation to provide resources to promote public understanding of the relative risk associated with natural gas drilling and to help landowners who might consider leasing their land for drilling make informed decisions based on existing scientific evidence.

The award will allow PRI and its partners to continue work started by CCE and to reach a broader audience across New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio. Over the past year, CCE initiated an outreach campaign that has included a website, Natural Gas Resource Development Center, webinar presentations and workforce investment and regional planning workshops.

PRI will provide outreach on the earth science aspects of the issues. CCE provides information about potential water and land use impacts, leasing, local and state regulations, workforce development, municipal officer leadership training and rural development strategies.

"Our outreach campaign has strived to provide objective information, not for or against gas development, but rather aiming to help stakeholders make scientifically informed decisions about their land and communities," said Robert Ross, associate director for outreach at PRI. "Part of our outreach effort has been and will continue to make the distinction between a neutral and advocacy role. It became very clear in 2008 that this was going to become a 'hot-button' issue for our communities. When we began talking to the public in 2009, we knew that we needed more resources to make this outreach initiative effective and to provide the guidance and scientific background these stakeholders needed. This award allows us to provide the much-needed information for these stakeholders to make the best informed decisions for themselves, their properties and their communities."

Outreach efforts planned include:

  • A user-friendly guide to drilling in the Marcellus Shale with clear explanations of the multitude of issues surrounding the debate. Information will be available in print and online visit
  • A network providing a comprehensive source for the scientific information surrounding the Marcellus Shale, including geology, water resources, energy and technology. Particular emphasis will be placed on integrating geology and hydrology (water) research, as these comprise the largest environmental concerns.
  • Forums to selected communities in New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio about the economic and environmental impacts of drilling in "tight shales" like the Marcellus Shale. It will include communication with government officials in affected states, including where research is still being undertaken to examine potential impacts.

For further information on the Marcellus Shale gas drilling visit

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John Carberry