State Agencies Eye Natural Gas Fracking on Public Land

A review of UT records leading up to the state’s fracking decision last month shows the question of fracking public land in Tennessee is not new, reports the Chattanooga TFP.
As far as back as 2002, when UT first shopped the idea of seeking oil and gas drilling bids on its property to the executive subcommittee of the State Building Commission, there was interest among other state agencies with custody of big bodies of land in East Tennessee where the underground Chattanooga shale deposits may hide today’s new gold — natural gas.
One day after the university’s first pitch before the subcommittee on Oct. 22, 2002, UT’s Alvin Payne, assistant vice president of UT office of capital projects, wrote a memo to report the results of the meeting to Jack Britt, vice president of UT Institute of Agriculture:
“There was extensive interest in this area by multiple state agencies such as the Department of Environment and Conservation, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the Department of Correction, etc. All of the agencies were supportive of our initiative and would like to potentially do something similar to that which we propose.”
The memos and dozens of other documents and emails were obtained by the Southern Environmental Law Center using Freedom of Information Act requests. SCLC shared them with the newspaper.
….Meg Lockhart, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation said neither she nor Jonathon Burr in TDEC’s mining section have heard of anyone suggesting the state drill on its own property for state gain.
But TDEC has worked with UT and drillers on UT’s draft “research plan” and took it to the governor’s office.
In a March 18, 2012, email exchange between Bryan Kaegi, who represents Consol Energy, and Larry Arrington, chancellor of UT’s Institute of Agriculture, Arrington states: “Our strategy (and they agreed) was to have TDEC help push for approvals. …”
In another email exchange between the two on Aug. 20, 2012, Kaegi tells Arrington: “I have spoken with Administration and TDEC and both have said ball is in UT hands.”
Less that two months later, UT officials met with Jonathan Burr and Paul Schmierbach of TDEC. In UT debriefing notes, Schmierbach offered the following comments:
“Be prepared for the worst from the environmental community — but their actions will not sway the Governor’s office resolve/support.”

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