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A New Low: Shale Gas Industry Targets College Campuses, K-12 Schools

Schools facing budget cuts are getting desperate for money, but fracking on school grounds is coming under fire.
 
 
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In Pennsylvania - a state that sits in the heart of the  Marcellus Shale basin - the concept of " frackademia" and " frackademics" has taken on an entirely new meaning.

On Sept. 27, the PA House of Representatives - in a 136-62 vote -  passed a bill that allows  hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking" to take place on the campuses of public universities. Its Senate copycat version passed in June in a 46-3 vote and Republican Gov. Tom Corbett  signed it into law as Act 147 on Oct. 8.

The bill is colloquially referred to as the  Indigenous Mineral Resources Development Act. It was  sponsored by Republican Sen. Don White, one of the state's top recipients of oil and gas industry funding between 2000-April 2012, pulling in $94,150 during that time frame, according to a  recent report published by  Common Cause PA and Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania. Corbett has  taken over $1.8 million from the oil and gas industry since his time serving as the state's Attorney General in 2004. 

The Corbett Administration has  made higher education budget  cuts totaling over $460 million in the past two consecutive PA state budgets. The oil and gas industry has  offered fracking as a new fundraising stream at universities starved for cash and looking to fill that massive cash void, as  explained by  The Philadelphia Inquirer:

Half of the fees and royalties generated by leases of State System of Higher Education lands would be retained by the university where the resources are located. Thirty-five percent would be allocated to other state universities. The remaining 15 percent would be used for tuition assistance at all 14 schools.

Some professors aren't exactly thrilled with this notion.  

"I've become extremely concerned, disturbed, and disgusted by the environmental consequences of fracking," a professor at Lock Haven University  told Mother Jones in a recent article. "They've had explosions, tens of thousands of gallons of chemicals spilled. And we're going to put this on campus?"

Mother Jones' Sydney Brownstone also explained that Pennsylvania isn't the only state playing this game,  writing

A couple of colleges in West Virginia have leased their land to fracking companies, and Ohio has a similar law to Pennsylvania's. The University of Texas also makes money from natural gas well pads on its land, and even installed one 400 feet away from a daycare center at its Arlington campus.

Yet even these details are merely the tip of the iceberg, as fracking has occured close to K-12 schoolyards for years, with accompanying devastating health consequences.

From Campuses to Schoolyards in TX, NY, and CO

As with fracking directly on campus, the gas industry knows no geographical bounds when deciding to extract shale gas close to K-12 schools. Three states serve as case studies.

New York

Perhaps the most tragic state of affairs can be found in  Le Roy, New York, a city with roughly 7,600 citizens, at Le Roy Middle School and High School.  CNN reported on Le Roy in Feb. 2012:

There are six natural gas wells on school grounds...Two of these wells spilled liquid onto the ground killing trees and vegetation right in the area of the wellheads...It's where every day, students play, do sports, practice their sports, right there on school grounds...This is definitely of concern to experts and parents I've been talking to.

By March of that year, there were 18 documented cases of  Tourette Syndrome, the plot  serving as the centerpiece for a cover story in an issue of  The New York Times Magazine.

 
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