By Mayuri Mei Lin, CG News
In a recent statement released by Ohio University, the Board of Trustees heard a report from the Ad Hoc Mineral Rights committee regarding fracking on University-owned land.
The press release stated, “Because of Ohio House Bill 133 – legislation that overhauled the process for leasing state-owned lands for oil and gas development – this topic is of pressing concern.”
The committee explored the many dimensions of this issue which included; the rights and responsibilities of the Board under HB 133, the possibility for fracking on University lands, recommended leasing stipulations and the potential long-term impacts. Each campus held open forums to gather responses from the University community.
Formal recommendations were designed by the committee primarily to protect campuses and their communities regardless of the decision to enter into a lease. One such recommendation was to establish an environmental baseline for lands under consideration formed from geological surveys, reports of health conditions in relation to the environment, information on air quality and drinking water reserves.
Other suggestions included drafting sample leases that hold any lessee accountable to maintain certain conditions, standardized decision-making procedures throughout all campuses regarding leases, guidelines for the usage of income earned via said leases and suggestions for securing the University’s investments and maintaining the property over the long term.
According to the press release, the committee also strongly suggested that the University avoid signing leases for five of its six campuses until the long-term effects are better understood.
The press release stated that, “an exception was made for the Eastern Campus. That campus has fielded offers to drill on its land, and because adjacent areas have already been leased, the committee recommended that the University enter into an agreement prior to the enactment of HB 133 so as to include as many of the proposed safeguards as possible.”
The Board also passed a resolution permitting President McDavis, or his designee, to engage in mineral rights agreements, pending final approval by the Board.
The Board will reconvene June 22 with an update regarding Ohio University’s drafted lease.
“We want the best scientific information upon which we base our decision,” McDavis said. “We are trying to do the best thing for the environment and certainly for the university.”