Fracking Infiltrates College Campuses

by Mary Pappalardo, Writing Intern

One of the looming issues that Pennsylvania has had to face in recent years is the push for natural gas collection in the Marcellus Shale, a formation that runs primarily through New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. To collect this gas, companies would need to utilize a method called hydrofracking (“fracking”), which involves a high-pressured injection of water to free the gas from within the formation. We previously published an article highlighting the Tour de FRACK, a group intent on drawing attention to the dangers that fracking poses to the environment and to resident living close to fracking locations.

Despite growing dissent, and vigilant efforts on the part of protest groups to spotlight the risks involved with fracking, the push to utilize the process is continuously progressing. In an economy struggling to work its way out of the collapse of 2008, the industry surrounding the Marcellus Shale is appealing. According to a couple of studies the natural gas industry could create over 200,000 new jobs in the state. In a time in which the United States is focusing not only on energy alternatives to oil, but also fostering those alternatives domestically, fracking is attractive on a surface level.

Recently, a bill passed in Pennsylvania that opened up the land of 14 public universities in the state to fracking. The plan to frack on university campuses is attractive to the state school system, which has had to undergo large budget cuts in the past few years. The universities would receive a percentage of the money made from the industry.

It must be understood, though, that while it is important to explore domestic alternatives to oil, it’s wildly irresponsible to pursue any option based solely on employment potential and financial gain while ignoring the negative consequences of the endeavor. The pursuit of a viable natural gas industry is a cornerstone of the ongoing efforts for green energy, but if that industry is responsible for poisoning the environment and the people depending on that environment, it is not only not green, but also unethical. The potentiality for water and air pollution that comes from fracking is a phenomenon that is steadily becoming more and more widely documented. Additionally, there is the potential for accidents with fracking, like explosions, and putting those work sites so close to students going about their daily lives could prove to be extremely unsafe.

This potential for pollution is symptomatic of a larger issue regarding these universities. The implication that comes along with pairing such a massive industry with the institution of higher learning is problematic. The main goal of these universities should always be providing the best education possible for its students. To do so, an environment that fosters learning is absolutely necessary, but when students need to worry whether or not their water is clean, it is that much harder to focus on their education. The signing away of university land is a gesture that the quick fix to state budgetary problems is more important than the education of the next generation of innovators, and the implications of that are as terrifying as the environmental consequences of the fracking in question.

For more information on getting involved in the movement to stop fracking check out Marcellus Shale Protest. They have a calendar of events that range from community activities to workshops.