The Heinz Endowment is Withdrawing Support for the FracTracker Marcellus Database System at Pitt

by Duane Nichols on August 31, 2011

Conrad Volz promoting FracTracker

Last year, the development of the FracTracker database for Marcellus shale gas production activities was progressing rapidly, under the leadership of Professor Conrad Volz, in the Center for Healthy Environments and Communities (CHEC) within the School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh.  Then, Professor Volz became an open critic of hydrofracking because it can contaminate drinking water.  He was forced to resign after becoming involved in a couple of disagreements over data interpretation.   His replacement, Professor Bernard Goldstein has also been a strong advocate for environmental regulation of hydrofracking for the protection of the public health.

Now the Heinz Endowment is withdrawing financial support for the FracTracker program at Pitt; and, Professor Goldstein is resigning. He is a former dean of Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health; and, he said Heinz’s decision was a factor in his resignation, but not the only one. He said he had already planned on retiring from teaching at the end of September.  “My point is, in academia we’re really much better at developing things. Our strength is not in maintaining things over the long term,” he said.

Energy companies have identified major reserves of natural gas in Marcellus shale, a formation that lies under much of New York and Pennsylvania, and parts of Maryland, Ohio and West Virginia. Drilling in the shale has raised concerns about the use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which injects chemical-laced water to break up the shale and allow natural gas to escape.  Environmental groups and the Environmental Protection Agency have expressed concerns about how the process affects water, soil and air quality. The industry insists it is safe, or to the extent there are adverse impacts that it is worth the risks.

The University of Pittsburgh and the Center for Healthy Environments and Communities (CHEC) will continue to research natural gas and its impacts on public health, although the funding sources are not yet secured. Bruce Pitt, chair of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, will be CHEC’s new interim director.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Cindy Rank September 1, 2011 at 1:20 pm

While it is true that the Heinz Foundation is withdrawing funds from PITT and CHEC for FracTracker…. It was clear from lengthier articles that the Heinz folks are engaged in discussions with other groups more appropriate to house FracTracker.

So i look for FracTracker to continue, just not under the academic auspices of the University of Pittsburgh or it’s Center for Healthy Environment and Communities (CHEC).


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: