PITTSBURGH (AP) — Citizens groups and nonprofits around the nation are asking questions about environmental and health impacts of natural gas hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and Pennsylvania charities are funding much of the debate, here and in other states.

Foundations from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh have provided more than $19 million for gas-drilling-related grants since 2009, according to an Associated Press review of charity data. The money has paid for scientific studies, films, radio programs, websites and even trout fishing groups that monitor water quality.

That's led to expressions of gratitude from those who say state and federal governments aren't doing enough on the issue, but also protests from some in the gas drilling industry, who claim there's bias in the campaigns.

"We are trying to be balanced. We will sacrifice the environment for nothing," said Robert Vagt, president of the Heinz Endowments, a Pittsburgh charity founded in 1941. The foundation, which is not affiliated with the company of the same name, has given more than $12 million to Cornell University, the Clean Air Council, the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds, Duquesne University, the environmental law organization Earthjustice, the Pittsburgh Filmmakers, Trout Unlimited and others.

One scientist said some research wouldn't have happened without the Heinz support.

"Foundation support has been critical as we and others who study water have worked to understand how energy and water resources affect each other in southwestern Pennsylvania," Carnegie Mellon University professor Jeanne VanBriesen wrote in an email.

R. John Dawes, the executive director of the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds, said Heinz funding "has been critical for citizen awareness and citizen input" on the gas drilling issue.

But the Marcellus Shale Coalition, a leading industry group, criticized what it sees as a "record of bankrolling organizations and institutions opposed to the safe development of job-creating American natural gas."

"As clean-burning natural gas from the Marcellus Shale is creating tens of thousands of jobs, enhancing air quality, providing lower energy costs for consumers and helping to make our region a manufacturing hub once again, it's ironic, if not disingenuous, that the Heinz Endowments claims to be focused on 'solutions to challenges that are national in scope,'" said Steve Forde, a Shale Coalition spokesman.

The recipients of Heinz grants have a wide range of views. Some take no official position or just want better oversight, while others are clearly opposed to drilling.

For example, Earthjustice received a $50,000 Heinz grant to "ensure environmentally sustainable natural gas exploration and production in the Marcellus Shale." But the Earthjustice website calls fracking dangerous and shortsighted and said it's "poisoning our air and water and on its way to jeopardizing the health of millions more Americans," and instead urges investments in renewable energy.

Fracking has made it possible to tap into deep reserves of oil and gas but has also raised concerns about pollution. Large volumes of water, along with sand and hazardous chemicals, are injected underground to break rock apart and free the oil and gas. Contaminated wastewater from the process can leak from faulty well casings into aquifers, but it's often difficult to trace underground sources of pollution. Some studies also have shown air quality problems around gas wells, while others have indicated no problems.

Regulators contend that overall, water and air pollution problems are rare, but environmental groups and some scientists say there hasn't been enough research on those issues. The industry and many federal and state officials say the practice is safe when done properly, and many rules on air pollution and disclosure of the chemicals used in fracking are being strengthened.

Vagt said the Heinz Endowments simply feels that many questions about gas drilling still need answers.

"There are lots of positions being taken with a relative paucity of data. The potential consequences are serious and permanent," he said.

Heinz has also worked with gas drilling companies on projects, such as a study that EQT Co. supported that examines whether it makes environmental and financial sense to convert Pittsburgh's bus fleet to run on natural gas.

Andrew Johnson, a program officer with the William Penn Foundation based in Philadelphia, said that region's drinking water is a prime focus of the more than $2 million in grants they've awarded over the past year.

"The reason we're stepping up is to a large degree the Philadelphia water supply comes from the forested headwaters," Johnson said, adding that campaigns to get more federal oversight of gas drilling have been a priority.

"We've also tended to focus on efforts to encourage U.S. EPA to become more involved, mobilizing people to become actively engaged," he said of the federal Environmental Protection Agency. "It wasn't clear to us that what had been done was sufficient," he said of local and state efforts.

State officials have criticized EPA's involvement with gas drilling issues.

"This organization is welcome to spend its money however it chooses; but the truth is that in Pennsylvania, DEP's strong regulations ensure that drilling is done right," said Katy Gresh, director of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's communications office. "EPA oversight has never been necessary for us to make that pledge, and it is not necessary now."

The William Penn Foundation has given money to the Sierra Club, Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future, the Delaware River Basin Commission, the National Resources Defense Council, Trout Unlimited and others. Those groups have a range of opinions on gas drilling, from outright opposition to cautious support.

All the foundations say they're responding to needs that match their core missions, as well as simply helping people who are concerned about gas drilling.

John Rohe, the vice president for Pittsburgh's Colcom Foundation, said the group has provided about $4.8 million for gas-drilling-related projects, with a focus on helping people "who care about the land."

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  • In this file photo from Oct. 14, 2011, a drilling rig is seen in Springville, Pa. State regulators blamed faulty gas wells drilled for leaking methane into the groundwater in nearby Dimock, Pa. It was the first serious case of methane migration said to be related to the Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale gas field drilling boom. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, FILE)

  • British police secure the area where demonstrators erected a mock fracking rig with a banner reading 'No fracking in the UK' in a protest against hydraulic fracturing for shale gas outside the Houses of Parliament in London on December 1, 2012. AFP PHOTO / JUSTIN TALLIS

  • SPRINGVILLE, PA - JANUARY 18: A truck with the natural gas industry, one of thousands that pass through the area daily, drives through the countryside to a hydraulic fracturing site on January 18, 2012 in Springville, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

  • SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MAY 30: Protestors stage a demonstration against fracking in California outside of the Hiram W. Johnson State Office Building on May 30, 2013 in San Francisco, California. Dozens of protesters with the group Californians Against Fracking staged a protest outside of California Gov. Jerry Brown's San Francisco offices demanding that Gov. Brown ban fracking in the state. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

  • People demonstrate on August 3, 2013 in La Petite Brosse, near Jouarre, outside Paris, to protest against an exploratory oil shale drilling, considering that it opens the door to the exploration of shale gas in the Parisian Basin. Banner reads 'Stop gas and oil shale'. AFP PHOTO / PIERRE ANDRIEU

  • In this Nov. 26, 2012 photo, Steve Lipsky demonstrates how his well water ignites when he puts a flame to the flowing well spigot outside his family's home in rural Parker County near Weatherford, Texas. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had evidence a gas company's drilling operation contaminated Lipsky's drinking water with explosive methane, and possibly cancer-causing chemicals, but withdrew its enforcement action, leaving the family with no useable water supply, according to a report obtained by The Associated Press. The EPA's decision to roll back its initial claim that hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” operations had contaminated the water is the latest case in which the federal agency initially linked drilling to water contamination and then softened its position, drawing criticism from Republicans and industry officials who insisted they proved the agency was inefficient and too quick to draw conclusions. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

  • In this file photo of Jan. 17, 2013, Yoko Ono, left, and her son Sean Lennon visit a fracking site in Franklin Forks, Pa., during a bus tour of natural-gas drilling sites in northeastern Pennsylvania. Ono and Lennon have formed a group called “Artists Against Fracking,” which has become the main celebrity driven anti-fracking organization. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

  • In this March 29, 2013 file photo, a worker checks a dipstick to check water levels and temperatures in a series of tanks at a hydraulic fracturing operation at a gas drilling site outside Rifle, Colorado. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

  • In this March 29, 2013 file photo, a worker switches well heads during a short pause in the water pumping phase, at the site of a natural gas hydraulic fracturing and extraction operation outside Rifle, in western Colorado. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

  • In this March 29, 2013 file photo, workers tend to a well head during a hydraulic fracturing operation at a gas well outside Rifle, in western Colorado. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

  • Josh Fox, director of the anti-fracking, Oscar-nominated documentary “Gasland” testifies during a House Committee hearing on oil drilling, "fracking" legislation at the Illinois State Capitol Tuesday, May 21, 2013, in Springfield, Ill. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

  • This is a Thursday Aug. 15, 2013 image of the Cuadrilla exploration drilling site in Balcombe, southeast England. (AP Photo/Gareth Fuller/PA)

  • A child plays near a farmers' protest in an area where oil company Chevron plans to put a drilling rig exploring for shale gas in the south-eastern Polish village of Zurawlow on June 11, 2013. AFP PHOTO / JANEK SKARZYNSKI

  • Protesters hold a banner during a protest outside of the Momentive resin plant, Monday, July 8, 2013, in Morganton, N.C. Dozens of environmental activists blocked a chemical plant Monday to protest against the company's sale of products used in the natural gas drilling process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. (AP Photo/The News Herald, Mary Elizabeth Robertson)

  • A fracking rig exploring for shale gas of oil company Chevron on June 11, 2013 in a village of Ksiezomierz in south-eastern Poland. AFP PHOTO / JANEK SKARZYNSKI

  • People demonstrate on August 3, 2013 in La Petite Brosse, near Jouarre, outside Paris, to protest against an exploratory oil shale drilling, considering that it opens the door to the exploration of shale gas in the Parisian Basin. AFP PHOTO / PIERRE ANDRIEU

  • Opponents of hydraulic fracturing in New York state attend a news conference and rally against hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, on January 11, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

  • Eric Weltman of Food & Water Watch attends a news conference and rally against hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, in New York State on January 11, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

  • Opponents and supporters of gas-drilling, or fracking, walk into the last of four public hearings on proposed fracking regulations in upstate New York on November 30, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

  • Engineers on the drilling platform of the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)

  • Engineers at work on the drilling platform of the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)

  • General views of the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)

  • Engineers look at the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)

  • A lump of shale rock on display at the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)

  • Engineers on the drilling platform of the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)

  • Engineers at work on the drilling platform of the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)

  • Drill heads on display at the entrance to the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)

  • An engineer displays a lump of shale rock at the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)

  • Actor/director Mark Ruffalo (C) speaks at the Hydraulic Fracturing prevention press conference urging the protection of the drinking water source of 15 million Americans at Foley Square on April 25, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images)

  • (L-R) Actor/director Mark Ruffalo, Denise Katzman, Wenonah Hauter, and Water Defense co-founder/campaign director Claire Sandberg attend the Hydraulic Fracturing prevention press conference urging the protection of the drinking water source of 15 million Americans at Foley Square on April 25, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images)