Letter To PSU President

The following letter was hand-delivered to Dr. Rodney Erickson, President of Penn State and to the Penn State Board of Trustees. A copy was also delivered to Mike Arthur and Tom Murphy, Co-Chairs of the Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research.

Dr. Rodney Erickson, President
& The Pennsylvania State University Board of Trustees
201 Old Main
University Park, PA 16802

As residents of Pennsylvania we gather here today on the steps of Old Main to request that Penn State reflect upon and remain true to its founding mission: that of teaching, research, and public service. With the discovery of vast deposits of natural gas buried deep below our family farms, state parks, forests and private land holdings, we expected nothing less than a fair and balanced analysis of all the issues surrounding Marcellus Shale gas exploration. Sadly, to date, this at times has not always been the case.

The following subjects come to mind:


  • In July 2010 the Responsible Drilling Alliance of Williamsport, PA questioned the validity of a study conducted by Penn State researchers claiming that Marcellus Shale drilling in Pennsylvania was expected to create thousands of jobs and more than $1 billion in state and local taxes. Penn State later admitted the study was flawed.


  • In September 2010 it was announced that Mr. Terry Pegula had donated $88 million, the largest single gift ever in Penn State history, to build a new ice hockey rink and establish Penn State Hockey as a Division I sport. Mr. Pegula amassed his fortune when he sold East Resources Inc., a privately held natural gas exploration and development company, to Royal Dutch Shell for $4.7 billion. Mr. Pegula was also a member of Governor Corbett’s Marcellus Gas Advisory Committee and donated $280,000 to Mr. Corbett’s gubernatorial campaign.


  • The Marcellus Summit 2011, being held today at the Penn Stater Conference Center and being hailed as “Real Issues, Balanced Perspectives” is being sponsored by some of the largest natural gas drillers in the state: Range Resources, Chesapeake Energy, and Talisman Energy. How “balanced” the perspectives will be would seem to be in question.

Recently it has come to light that Penn State University requested and received an exemption from the Commonwealth’s 2008 Right to Know Law. This is in regards to contracts they’ve entered into for corporate-sponsored research for a number of oil and natural gas corporations. As this institution receives millions of our taxpayer dollars every year, we feel it is our right to know for whom, and for how much, Penn State is conducting this research.

Our concern is that, with the vast amounts of monies being received by Penn State from the natural gas industry, combined with deep cuts in state spending for higher education, this institution’s objectivity has come into question. With so much current and future funding of Penn State relying on monies from the industry, will an open and unbiased academic atmosphere be threatened? Will researchers, professors and staff enjoy the opportunity to explore subjects and pursue studies that may not shed a positive light on various aspects of the natural gas extraction process?

While we realize there is some ongoing research at Penn State that deals with potential environmental impacts, our concern is that the overall message coming from Penn State consistently shines a positive light on the industry while avoiding any negative or controversial implications that might arise from natural gas drilling.

The Pennsylvania State University is partially subsidized by the taxpayers of the Commonwealth, who have come to expect unbiased research from this university to help them make informed decisions regarding their health, their land and the economic well-being of all Pennsylvanians.

In a recent statement President Rodney Erickson outlined five promises to the community. One of those promises was “transparency” in all matters related to Penn State. We would expect Mr. Erickson to extend that transparency to financial dealings with the natural gas companies and any other companies who either donate, sponsor or provide funding for private research.

We present this letter to Penn State University requesting that a complete evaluation be undertaken immediately by the University Board of Trustees, the Administration, all related Penn State Cooperative Extensions, the Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research and all involved academic departments to ensure that Penn State University has not, and will not, compromise its academic integrity to the natural gas industry, or any other industry that funds research at Penn State.

Marcellus Protest 2011

Marcellus Protest 2011 – Nov. 18 – State College PA

Penn State Admits Gas Study Flaw:
No Cheap Skates at Penn State, Thanks To Donor:
Shale Gas Summit at Penn State – November 16 – 18:
Drilling on Campus: Corporate Funding of Shale Studies at Universities Raises Alarms: