The Park Foundation “is dedicated to the aid and support of education, public broadcasting, environment, and other selected areas of interest to the Park family.” While the Park Foundation has funded a number of laudable causes, the foundation has received significant criticism for its funding of several studies on hydraulic fracturing that were widely criticized by other researchers. The studies were then reported on by media outlets that also received funding from the Park Foundation.
Specifically, the Park Foundation gave $208,000 to Cornell University for studies of hydraulic fracturing or fracking (a method of natural gas and oil extraction) in the Marcellus Shale (a large deposit of natural gas located in Pennsylvania and New York). This in and of itself is not unusual or problematic. What’s most troubling about the grant is that the researcher who performed the study, Robert Howarth, admitted that he met with representatives of the Park Foundation and agreed to “produce a study challenging the conventional wisdom that shale gas is comparatively clean.”
Anytime a researcher accepts grant money with the understanding that he will produce specific findings, it’s a major problem. Foundations should be willing to fund research without a predetermined agenda.
The Park Foundation also funds a number of environmental activist groups that used Howarth’s research to lobby for fracking bans, including New Yorkers Against Fracking and Food & Water Watch, and funded an anti-fracking documentary, Gasland. Park has also funded a number of media outlets that have written negative stories about fracking, though the organizations insist Park does not interfere in editorial decisions.