Carnegie Mellon University
March 12, 2013

Press Release: Carnegie Mellon's Scott Institute Releases New Policymaker Guide Indicating Critical Need for Shale Gas and Environment Initiative

Contacts: Chriss Swaney / 412-268-5776 /
Ken Walters / 412-268-2900 /

PITTSBURGH—A team of Carnegie Mellon University researchers is scheduled to visit Capitol Hill March 13 to encourage U.S. national, regional and state officials to establish a government-university-industry research and education initiative to inform the public about issues surrounding shale gas and the environment so the nation can better prepare for its energy future.

Scott Institute WordmarkA recently released guide published by energy experts at CMU's Scott Institute for Energy Innovation provides policymakers with a primer on shale gas development and an overview of CMU research results assessing the impact of shale gas development on water resources, air quality, greenhouse gas emissions and orphaned shale gas wells.

Shale gas production is increasing at a rapid rate and is expected to produce half of the U.S. natural gas supply by 2040. An initiative is needed because insufficient research is in place to assess the impact of shale gas operations and the public needs unbiased information informed by science and engineering, according to Carnegie Mellon researchers.

For example, in Pennsylvania alone, there are a little more than 100 surface water monitoring stations for 86,000 miles of rivers and streams and almost 4,000 lakes, reservoirs and ponds — yet approximately 80 percent of Pennsylvania's land mass is included in the Marcellus Shale geological formation.

"In addition, a government-university-industry initiative can provide a 'firewall' between the funding of research and research priorities, set a common basis for conflict of interest policies, reduce duplication of research efforts, and focus on policymaker information needs. Industry involvement is important in identifying research priorities, using research results to establish best practices, and providing the information researchers need to better understand shale gas operations. As a result, industry initiation and leadership are key criteria for the success of such an initiative," said Deborah D. Stine, professor of the practice in CMU's novel Department of Engineering and Public Policy (EPP) and associate director for policy outreach at the Scott Institute for Energy Innovation.

A key mission of the Scott Institute, established last fall, is to take a systems approach to energy issues — collecting information and research results throughout CMU — to provide an up-to-date understanding of energy issues facing today's policymakers. Policymakers face complex systems of economic, environmental, regulatory, social and business, and job implications when they make decisions regarding shale gas development. A new multidisciplinary research initiative could help develop a systems approach to assessing the risk and uncertainties associated with shale gas development.

A team of researchers will brief administration and Congressional staff about its results and discuss its recommendations for a new multidisciplinary research initiative to help develop a systems approach to assess the risk and uncertainties associated with shale-gas development. The team includes: Jeanne VanBriesen, professor of civil and environmental engineering; Michael Griffin, associate professor of EPP and the Tepper School of Business, and executive director of the Green Design Institute; Allen Robinson, head of the Mechanical Engineering Department; and Austin Mitchell, a Ph.D. student in EPP.

The proposed initiative also would expand the ability of participants to transform limited resources into improved results, create greater access to information making the program more efficient, enhance project credibility and provide greater access to financial resources from private firms and individuals.

For additional information, please see