Don't support the UT lease on oil/gas drilling in the Cumberland Forest
  • Petitioned UT Board of Trustees
  • Responded

This petition was delivered to:

University of Tennessee, 719 Andy Holt Tower, Knoxville, TN 37996-0170
UT Board of Trustees
See response

Don't support the UT lease on oil/gas drilling in the Cumberland Forest

    1. Petition by

      Joe Wilferth and Henry Spratt

      Chattanooga

UPDATE:  We have learned that the UT Board of Trustees will NOT vote on this issue on UTC's campus later this week.  It seems the Tennessee State Building Commission (SBC) and the SBC Executive Subcommittee must approve the request to lease the minerals before the fracking proposal can go further.  The next meeting of the SBC Executive Subcommittee is March 15 in Nashville.  Our intent is to the send the names of all who have signed here, plus your comments, to members of the SBC Executive Subcommittee.  The original petition follows:

ORIGINAL PETITION LANGUAGE:  At its February 28 meeting, the Board of Trustees for the University of Tennessee is scheduled to vote on a lease of 8,600 acres of public land in the Cumberland Forest to energy companies for the purpose of natural gas and oil drilling. While some countries (e.g., Germany) and certainly some states and counties here in the U.S. have placed a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing (or "fracking")—the process by which proprietary chemical mixtures or nitrogen gas is pumped into wells to extract natural gas and oil—Tennessee maintains extremely lax regulations on well sites to the detriment of the natural environment, to the detriment of wildlife and herd animals, and to the detriment of human health.

The reported purpose of this lease: to facilitate research between the UT Forest AgResearch & Education Center and oil/gas companies. Similar arrangements between oil/gas companies and universities like the University of Texas have historically resulted in bunk and discredited research, faculty resignations, and more.

Worse still, Tennessee's regulatory body, the Division of Water Pollution Control at the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), maintains regulations that are not even on par with those endorsed by the American Petroleum Institute, despite efforts by the Southern Environmental Law Center, the Tennessee Clean Water Network, the Tennessee Chapter of the Sierra Club, the League of Women's Voters-TN, the Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning, Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment (SOCM), and the Harpeth River Watershed Association to push for regulations that are better suited for a state like Tennessee that has such diverse topography and geological formations. For a summary of the state's regulations and present environmental impact, including a case study of damage to Brush Creek in Williamson County, see the following (PDF file): http://www.harpethriver.org/program/sm_files/HRWA%20comments%20to%20TDEC%20fracking%20Aug%203%202012%20final.pdf

Specifically, our state's regulations require a mere 200 feet of horizontal separation between an oil or gas well and an active drinking water well, 100 vertical feet separating the bottom of the protective well casing and the deepest aquifer, 200 feet from a home, and a mere 100 feet from a nearby stream—all without public notice. These regulations are NOT sufficient for pristine spaces like the Cumberland Forest; nor are they sufficient for the land throughout our counties. This is our home! It is where we fish, hunt, canoe, golf, climb, swim and live! Any UT lease of public land to energy companies for gas and oil drilling undermines the trust that the people of this great state put in higher education and its affiliated groups. Instead of pursuing fossil fuels and nonrenewable resources, UT could instead be a leader in researching renewable and sustainable energy.

Who are the authors of this petition? Dr. Joe Wilferth is head of the English Department at UT-Chattanooga, where he teaches Environmental Rhetoric and writing courses that have as their focus place-based topics. Dr. Henry Spratt is a Biology professor at UT-Chattanooga, where he teaches courses including Bioremediation, Principles of Microbiology, and more. They are simply people who call Tennessee "home." They consider themselves environmentalists insofar as they understand the importance of clean water, clean air, and clean soil. It's that simple!

[If you sign the petition, please add your affiliation with the UT system—e.g., UT-Martin Class of 2002, UT-Knoxville Class of 2015, graduate student, administrative assistant, Professor of Economics, etc.]

Recent signatures

    News

    1. Another petition

      Joe Wilferth and Henry Spratt
      Petition Organizer

      Supporters of this petition (who are all UT-affiliated faculty, staff, students and alumni) are likewise encouraged to sign the following (more general) petition:

      http://org.credoaction.com/petitions/tell-ut-and-the-state-building-commission-don-t-frack-the-cumberland-plateau

      Tell the University of TN and the State Building Commission: Don't Frack the Cumberland Plateau

      The University of Tennessee is proposing to lease a portion of over 8500 acres of land held in public trust to private companies for fracking of oil and gas for up to 20 years or as long as paying quantities of oil or gas are being produced.

    2. Decision-maker UT Board of Trustees responds:

      UT Board of Trustees

      Personally, I don't consider myself an ardent environmentalist/socialist or an ardent capitalist/free-marketeer either. I am a pragmatist. My pragmatic view is we have a glut of natural gas due to fracking in other states that have more a...


    3. 500 Signatures & Re-Direct to the TN State Building Commission

      Joe Wilferth and Henry Spratt
      Petition Organizer

      We have learned that the UT Board of Trustees will NOT vote on this issue on UTC's campus later this week. It seems the Tennessee State Building Commission (SBC) and the SBC Executive Subcommittee must approve the request to lease the minerals before the fracking proposal can go further. The next meeting of the SBC Executive Subcommittee is March 15 in Nashville. Our intent is to the send the names of all who have signed here, plus your comments, to members of the SBC Executive Subcommittee.

      TN State Building Commission members and contact information:
      http://www.tn.gov/finance/OSA/documents/SBCMembers.pdf

    4. Reached 500 signatures
    5. Decision-maker UT Board of Trustees responds:

      UT Board of Trustees

      My name is John Tarwater (UTM 1990), and I urge you to vote NO to oil/gas drilling in Tennessee. Tennessee is beautiful, and I want it to stay that way forever. I hope that you will vote NO.


    6. Decision-maker UT Board of Trustees responds:

      UT Board of Trustees

      UT-Knoxville alumna, class of 1992


    7. Decision-maker UT Board of Trustees responds:

      UT Board of Trustees

      UT-Knoxville Class of 1972


    8. Reaching Out to UT's Board of Trustees

      Joe Wilferth and Henry Spratt
      Petition Organizer

      Your signatures and comments will go to the UT Board of Trustees this week, along with the following:

      "Over the past week, over 200 UT-affiliated faculty, staff, students and alumni have responded to the possible lease of land in the Cumberland Forest (by the UT Board of Trustees) for the purposes of oil/gas drilling. They have done so by signing the following petition.
      http://www.change.org/petitions/ut-board-of-trustees-don-t-support-the-ut-lease-on-oil-gas-drilling-in-the-cumberland-forest

      This decision by the UT Board of Trustees is obviously a very important one--one that arguably exchanges immediate and short-term gains for long-term cost and loss of Tennessee's natural environment. This decision impacts not only the UT Forest AgResearch & Education Center; it has implications for the entire UT system."

      Thank you to those who have already signed the petition. Please continue to spread the word in anticipation of the Board's vote later this month.

      UT Board of Trustees: Don't support the UT lease on oil/gas drilling in the Cumberland Forest

      At its February 28th meeting, the Board of Trustees for the University of Tennessee is scheduled to vote on a lease of 8,600 acres of public land in...

    9. Decision-maker UT Board of Trustees responds:

      UT Board of Trustees

      To:
      UT Board of Trustees, University of Tennessee, 719 Andy Holt Tower, Knoxville, TN 37996-0170

      As an alumni of one of the many campuses of the University of Tennessee system, I do NOT support the possible lease by the University o...


    10. Decision-maker UT Board of Trustees responds:

      UT Board of Trustees

      Hydraulic fracking is pure poison to any ecosystem and should not be done in Tennessee.


    11. CBS News Article (as we hit 200 signatures)

      Joe Wilferth and Henry Spratt
      Petition Organizer

      As the UT Board of Trustees considers possible use of the Cumberland Forest for "research" associated with fracking, it would be helpful if everyone associated with the UT system could think about potential pitfalls inherent in this research effort. The CBS News article (link below) does a good job pointing out critical failures that beset the University of Texas-Austin and SUNY- Buffalo when faculty at both institutions--in "Centers" whose stated focus was some aspect of shale gas production--took money from natural gas producers to support their research. Reports released from both "Centers" were highly supportive of fracking; however, on closer scrutiny those reports did not represent sound science. The result in both cases was the resignation or early retirement of university officials and the closure of those "Centers", not to mention damaged reputations for those universities.

      http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57567508/a-poisoned-well-fracking-studies-stir-doubts/

      A poisoned well? Fracking studies stir doubts

      Updated 5:48 p.m. Eastern Time On Monday, protesters poured into a hearing room in Albany, New York to make the case that the state should not lift a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing - better known as "fracking" - later this month.

    12. Reached 200 signatures
    13. Decision-maker UT Board of Trustees responds:

      UT Board of Trustees

      I do NOT support leasing of land in the Cumberland Forest for oil and gas drilling. Rebecca Bryant, BA and MBA UTK


    14. Decision-maker UT Board of Trustees responds:

      UT Board of Trustees

      I would like to strongly recommend that the UT Board of Trustees NOT lease land for oil and gas drilling in the Cumberland Forest. Rebecca Bryant


    15. Reached 100 signatures

    Supporters

    Reasons for signing

    • Leslie Palmer POWELL, TN
      • over 1 year ago

      I like water, it's important .

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Jonas Applegate ANTIOCH, TN
      • over 1 year ago

      Please consider watching the documentary "Gasland" before voting on this critical issue.

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Andriah Friend NASHVILLE, TN
      • over 1 year ago

      Forests are important to sustaining the earth and human life for as long as possible. UT claims that being environmentally friendly is a priority to them and if that is true then allowing oil drilling in the Cumberland Forest makes them hypocrites.

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Ben Jones MURFREESBORO, TN
      • over 1 year ago

      What further research needs to be done about fracking? We know it's a decent accessible energy option but it's expensive, time consuming, and also detrimental to the earth and those living in the area. Open your eyes to renewable energy.

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Linda Reeves BRENTWOOD, TN
      • over 1 year ago

      This is an unnecessary disturbance of this beautiful territory.

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:

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