Fracking: Coming Soon to a Campus Near You
Fracking rigs reared their ugly heads at schools across the country, making the student-led push for universities and colleges to divest their endowments from the top 200 oil-and-gas companies tougher at some campuses.
The Pennsylvania legislature passed a bill in September allowing hydraulic fracturing for natural gas on public universities under the authority of the university president. More recently, a student group organized their campus community at Slippery Rock University to educate them about how threats to their health and safety, and teach them tactics in fighting for a sustainable campus environment.
Many universities see fracking as an opportunity to give endowments a boost after budget cuts to higher education have left many schools strapped for cash. Following on the heels of the Pennsylvania legislation, shale gas drilling has opened up at campuses across Texas, New York, Colorado, Ohio and West Virginia.
“This is not the kind of risk we should be willing to take with universities that are sacred places of education and smart decision making. Allowing this land to be leased begs the questions, what are our values in Pennsylvania?” Sierra Student Coalition organizer Kathryn Hilton said at WeArePowerShift.org.
For this reporter, the fracking gets personal. At my local university in Denton, Texas, a fracking rig is currently located just yards away from an athletic dormitory on our campus. That rig was operating illegally for a time while Denton was still coming up with a new ordinance on drilling in the city.
But the trend isn’t exclusive to institutions of higher learning. Fracking rigs are increasingly encroaching on K-12 schools as well, and my town yet again exemplifies the problem—with three rigs behind a local school, right next to a playground.
The fight for divestment is about more than just an endowment. It’s also the fight for the right to a frack-free campus at some colleges where drilling rigs are already in place.
Candice Bernd is a reporter with Campus Progress. Follow her on Twitter @CandiceBernd.