Getting communities involved in studying oil and gas impacts

“There was distrust and misinformation from both sides of the aisle.”

A national research project, based at CU Boulder, is reaching out to communities in Colorado to help them assess the impact of oil and gas extraction in the state.  The AirWaterGas Sustainability Research Network is a program funded by the National Science Foundation to look at the environmental and economic trade offs of fracking in the western US. Dr. Mark Williams, one of the principal investigators of the AirWaterGas Sustainability Research Network says the NSF has given the network $12 million over 5 years to fund 26 senior scientists and about 35 graduate students “the goal of this program is to provide policy relevant products to communities and to policy actors of all types.”

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AirWaterGas is now reaching out to communities around the Western US and inviting them to submit project proposals that explore the impacts of oil and gas development on their local communities. Dr. Mark Williams says it’s important to hear from communities who are being directly impacted by fracking “we want to get our results out to the communities but we also want to listen to the communities and hear their concerns.”

Dr. Mark Williams says the research project  grew out of the fact that there was distrust and misinformation on oil and gas extraction, from both sides of the aisle “when that happens people come to places like the University of Colorado to get unbiased information.”

Katya Hafich with AirWaterGas says in 2014 6 different projects were funded including a school in Pagosa Springs that will build some air quality monitoring equipment and the Poudre Learning Center in Greeley, where students monitor groundwater quality with its Well Watch Project.

Grants of up to $5,000 can be awarded for projects that aim to improve understanding of the risks and benefits of oil and gas development as identified by community organizations. Grant recipients will work with AirWaterGas researchers for the duration of their one-year projects.

Projects may focus on citizen science initiatives, project-based learning, the interface of science and policy issues or other energy-related topics that have relevance for local schools, organizations or communities.

Proposals are due by 5 p.m., Tuesday December 1st. Grants will be awarded early in 2016 and successful projects must be completed by March 1st 2017.

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