Public universities are feeling heat in the controversy over shale-gas fracking. On one hand, the states are pressuring them to allow fracking on their land, according to a report by Scott Carlson in the Chronicle of Higher Education. But universities also face communities who are opposed to the practice.
Carlson tells the story of Ohio University in Athens:
In years past, individual boards of trustees, for the most part, controlled the land at the state’s colleges and universities. But a new law directs Ohio’s state institutions to inventory their parcels and determine whether gas companies can drill on them—with the state pushing the colleges to offer up their land.
So Ohio University finds itself caught between shale and a hard place. On one side are state politics and the lure of petrodollars. On the other are the university’s commitment to sustainability and the community’s opposition to “fracking,” the term that describes the way drillers break the rock to get at the gas.
Critics of the industry say colleges are too eager to accommodate fracking because of the possible financial benefits. But proponents of the practice say universities are too influenced by “academics who stand in its way.”
But now colleges also feel the pressure to reap the financial benefits from fracking, particularly since state funding cuts in states like Ohio and Pennsylvania made budgets tight.
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