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Penn. Governor Greenlights Fracking on College Campuses

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Environment and Climate Resource Center  page and our Health Issues page.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett thinks state colleges should be tapping in to one of their greatest assets. Youthful energy? No. Great minds? No. Shale gas!

This week the governor signed into law the Indigenous Mineral Resource Development Act, which allows the state to make and execute contracts for the "mining or removal of coal, oil, natural gas, coal bed methane and limestone found in or beneath land owned by the state or state system of higher education." As the governor of a state that has wholeheartedly embraced shale oil and gas production, his hope is that this bill will have coeds cheering 'bring on the fracking!'

Corbett first suggested campus exploitation as a means of revenue last year when he said that schools "could ease their financial woes by tapping into Marcellus shale deposits beneath their campuses," reported the Erie Times News. This brainstorm came after Corbett's 2011 budget slashed funding for the 14 schools under Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) by 18 percent. (The same budget included a $1.7 billion tax break for Shell in an attempt to beguile them to build a new refinery in Western Penn.)

Though the law applies to all the schools within the PSSHE, the six that that sit atop the Marcellus Shale are likely the most economically viable. The act (pdf) is certainly lucrative, with "50 percent of all fees and royalties from the mineral leases [ ] retained by the university where those minerals are mined, 35 percent [ ] distributed across the state system, and another 15 percent [ ] towards subsidizing student tuition."

However, that windfall disregards the great environmental and health risks associated with shale gas production. Environmentalists and educators are already clamoring about student risk, exposing them to known carcinogens and harms that include explosions, water contamination and air pollution.

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