Environmentalists Oppose UT Fracking Plans

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Environmental groups are asking a committee of the State Building Commission to prevent use of a gas drilling technique at a forested tract owned by the University of Tennessee.
According to the Knoxville News Sentinel (http://bit.ly/VW0TqC ), the Southern Environmental Law Center asked, on behalf of a half-dozen environmental groups, that fracture drilling, or fracking, not be allowed in the Cumberland Research Forest.
A letter to the commission’s executive subcommittee states UT is dragging its feet on public records requests and asks the panel to defer action on drilling until the public is better informed of university intentions.
“Now UT has started behaving like an oil and gas company, and saying, ‘We’re just going to do what we want,'” said Renee Hoyos, director of the Tennessee Clean Water Network, one of the groups represented in SELC’s letter sent to subcommittee members. “I don’t think UT is doing its due diligence by acting this way. It’s a university and it needs to hold itself to a higher standard.”
UT is asking to solicit bids to lease part of the 8,000-acre tract in Morgan and Scott counties. The university said it would use revenue from leases to fund studies into the environmental impact of fracking.
The drilling technique is used to extract oil and gas from shale. A well is drilled vertically and then horizontally, and water and chemicals can then be pumped into the well to fracture the rock and free the minerals. Because the shale lies at shallower depths in Tennessee than elsewhere, drillers often use nitrogen rather than water to extract the gas.
The committee meets Thursday, and UT has requested a waiver of appraisals to assess the value of the land and its mineral deposits.
In a prepared statement, UT officials said they delivered the requested public records last week but that it took seven weeks to prepare them. Officials noted the scope of the request, inclement weather and holiday university closings.

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