PA Gov. Suggests Drilling On Campuses To Make Up For Education Cuts In His Budget

April 29, 2011 5:47 pm ET — Salvatore Colleluori

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett (R) had an interesting suggestion yesterday for some Pennsylvania universities facing large budget cuts this year — drill for natural gas. Speaking to trustees from the 14 Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Schools at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, Corbett explained that some of the universities could open up their land for natural gas drilling on the Marcellus shale formation, which sits under six of the campuses.

The Erie Times-News reports:

Gov. Tom Corbett defended his proposed budget in his first visit to Erie County as the state's chief executive, and said some universities could make up for the loss of state funds by opening their campuses to natural-gas drilling.

Speaking at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania at a conference for the trustees from the 14 Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education schools, Corbett said six universities on the Marcellus shale formation could open to drilling. [...]

"We need to think different. We need to act differently."

Corbett's proposed 2011-12 budget includes a $2 billion decrease in education funding and 50 percent reduction in aid to colleges and universities. That includes $220 million in aid eliminated from PASSHE's state allocation and $182 million cut from the Pennsylvania State University system's allocation.

Corbett said the drilling wouldn't be a complete solution, calling it "a cornerstone of the state's economic recovery, but not the cornerstone."

Corbett's suggestion couldn't come at a worse time for the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania. Last week, a natural gas well owned by Chesapeake Energy suspended its fracking operations in Pennsylvania after an explosion leaked "thousands of gallons of fracking fluid" into local farm land and creeks. Also last week, the head of a coalition of natural gas companies operating in the Marcellus Shale made the "stunning admission" that the industry is "partly responsible for rising levels of contaminants found in area drinking water."