PA Gov Suggests Universities Tap Into Shale Deposits Under Campuses

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April 28, 2011 1:32 p.m.

Ah, college. All-nighters. Ultimate frisbee. Fraternities. Fracking.

According to The Erie Times-News, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) is telling state universities that an answer to their financial troubles lies literally under their feet. Speaking at Edinboro University in Northwestern Pennsylvania on Thursday, Corbett told the Pennsylvania Association of Councils of Trustees that six campuses in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education sit on the Marcellus Shale Formation, which could be tapped for natural gas.Corbett’s 2011-2012 budget proposal, according to the Times-News, “includes $2 billion in cuts to education and a 50 percent reduction in aid to colleges and universities.”

But as the Associated Press points out, drilling for natural gas is no Rocks for Jocks course:

Drilling for gas in deep shale deposits is emerging as a major new source of energy that supporters say is homegrown, cheap and friendlier environmentally than coal or oil.

But shale drilling requires injecting huge volumes of water underground to help shatter the rock — a process called hydraulic fracturing. Some of that water returns to the surface, in addition to the gas, as ultra-salty brine tainted with metals like barium and strontium, trace radioactivity and small amounts of toxic chemicals injected by the drilling companies.

It’s worth noting that industrial fracking is a highly contentious business. Natural gas companies claim the process is safe, but critics, including many who live near fracking projects, say the environmental impact is at best uncertain, and at worst profoundly toxic.

TPM has reached out to Corbett’s office and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.

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