There will be no “fracking” conducted by the University of Tennessee on state-owned land in Morgan and Scott counties — at least not in the immediate future. UT officials have put on hold plans to allow the hydraulic extraction of oil and gas from land in the university’s Cumberland Research Forest after bids for the drilling proved disappointing.
UT had hoped to use proceeds from a drilling contract to underwrite a major study on the impact of fracking on the environment. While the university’s aim is noble, subjecting some of the most ecologically important land in Tennessee to this practice is not the best way to go about it. And we believe most Tennesseans feel the same way.
Americans first learned about fracking in a 2010 documentary “Gasland.” One of the most memorable scenes from that documentary was a man in Colorado lighting his tap water on fire.
Environmentalists and conservationists say fracking endangers the health and public safety of people and wildlife living near the drilling. Leaders of the gas and oil industries, however, say there is no evidence to show fracking to be hazardous to people, animals or the environment. But that’s only because there has been no independent study conducted on the long-term effects of the process.
While we agree with UT’s eagerness to conduct such a study, we don’t think protected land in the Cumberland forest is the place to do it.