The industry-led Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC) has canceled a study underway by Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) about natural gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking), following criticism that previous research had a pro-drilling slant.

Penn State had been commissioned to conduct previous studies for MSC, including one last year that claimed economic activity in the Marcellus Shale had quadrupled over a three-year period (see Shale Daily, July 21, 2011). Another study in 2009 reported that barring a severance tax, Marcellus Shale activity would pump an estimated $14.17 billion into Pennsylvania’s economy in 2010 and create more than 98,000 jobs (see Daily GPI, July 29, 2009).

However, the Penn State research had come under criticism because the studies were funded in part by the MSC, which is composed of natural gas operators (see Shale Daily, July 22, 2011). The 2009 study apparently initially failed to disclose industry funding, and Pennsylvania lawmakers, including Gov. Tom Corbett, had cited the research as they worked to kill legislation to impose severance taxes on drillers (see Shale Daily, April 27, 2011).

MSC President Kathryn Klaber on Wednesday downplayed the criticism. She said a third study by Penn State was unnecessary considering the amount of information now being provided by the state and other sources.

“Given the wide-ranging, readily available government data related to Marcellus Shale production rates and the industry’s economic impact across Pennsylvania — especially in terms of job creation, tax and fee generation, and overall production — we are now well positioned to capture broad-based, real-time industry snapshots and trends,” Klaber said in an email to NGI’s Shale Daily.

“While third-party studies have played, and can play, an important role in measuring and forecasting our industry’s growth and impact, this critical information is now more accessible than ever — yet another sign of the growth and sustainability of this industry in our region.”

There were some other reasons for MSC to pull out on the third study, however, a source told NGI’s Shale Daily. Penn State’s Michael Arthur, who co-directs the Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research, declined to take part in this year’s research, and at least one other faculty member also was said to have declined to take part. Without the backing of at least one full-time faculty member, the study may not be published under Penn State’s name.

The previous studies were co-written by Penn State’s Robert Watson and economist Timothy Considine, formerly of Penn State and now with the University of Wyoming. Considine was working on the latest study. However, Considine was said to have not met some of its deadlines defined in his contract. As each deadline was missed, more publicly available information was released, which apparently diminished outside research contributions.

Also, one Penn State researcher who had expressed an interest in collaborating on the new report apparently would only agree to participate if the MSC made a five-year commitment to do so. MSC officials couldn’t justify moving forward based on the narrow parameters, the source said.