Do you have a question about the UT Institute of Agriculture's proposal to allow an oil and gas lease and research project on UT's Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center? Read questions others have submitted that we have answered already, or submit your own by email at gas&oil@tennessee.edu




 
The following questions are from Jackson C., received April 19, 2013. Responded to on April 25, 2013

Question: Would you please post information on when and where the pre-proposal conference on this project will be held?

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture: Yes, we will post information about the pre-bid conference on the UTIA Gas & Oil research website. Please note, however, that the purpose of the pre-bid conference is to allow general contractors contemplating a bid to ask questions about the RFP. It is not intended as a forum in which
questions or comments are submitted by the general public.

Question: Will you provide at least two weeks notice on the UTIA Gas and Oil website of any public meetings about the proposed oil and gas lease, and post a copy of any documents the University submits to the State Building Commission in requesting approval of the lease?

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture: Yes, we plan to publish public meeting information we receive from the SBC on the UTIA Gas & Oil research website.

Question: The Southern Environmental Law Center and several news organizations reported on emails concerning this project. These emails, some of which are to or from UTIA officials, contain language such as "My congratulations to the person who came up with the creative idea for a fracking research project as a means for gaining approval to lease petroleum reserves under the Cumberland Forest. I hope the leases yield much money for the Experiment Station," from Professor and Associate Dean Emeritus Roland Mote in an e-mail to Richard Evans. Can you explain the difference between the profit-motivated statement in that quote and the research-oriented claims in UTIA's proposal?

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture:  As an important component of Tennessee's Land Grant institution, the UT Institute of Agriculture takes seriously its mission of service for the public good.  We provide access to higher education, we develop new knowledge and we extend this new knowledge to improve the lives of citizens of Tennessee and the world.  Due to the concerns, comments and questions we are hearing surrounding gas/oil extraction in Tennessee, we feel an obligation to address researchable questions which will lead to answers surrounding this topic.  We believe that we can form collaborative teams of faculty and scientists and we have the outdoor laboratory facilities required to accomplish the needed research.

Funding for our enterprise is derived from multiple sources including allocations from state and federal government, grants/contracts with private industry, governmental agencies and other sponsors, revenue generated from sale of products grown and produced on our AgResearch and Education Centers, and gifts/in kind contributions.  A portion of the budget which sustains our ten (10) AgResearch and Education Centers is generated from the sale of products grown and generated at the Centers. These products are sold on the open market just as private farmers and
ranchers sell their products.  Those that purchase our products have no input or influence over how we utilize these funds; they simple purchase our goods.

If the gas/oil project moves forward, we have requested that land use fees and UTs share of the royalty return be allocated to the research project.  This is consistent with all of our work that takes place at the AgResearch and Education Centers.  Just as we do with all of our work, the oil/gas company that is awarded the drilling contract will have no input or control over how these funds are expended.
 

 
The following questions are from Axel R., received April 17, 2013. Responded to on April 22, 2013.
 
Question: The Executive Subcommittee of the State Building Commission at the March 15 public hearing in Nashville requested UT to hold a pre-proposal conference. Would you please post information on when and where the pre-proposal conference will be held?
 
Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture: Yes, we will post information about the pre-bid conference on the UTIA Gas & Oil research website. Please note, however, that the purpose of the pre-bid conference is to allow general contractors contemplating a bid to ask questions about the RFP. It is not a forum in which questions or comments by the general public.
 
Question: Given the extent of public interest in the proposed gas lease on the Cumberland Research Forest, would you please commit to providing two weeks’ notice on the UTIA Gas and Oil website of any public meetings relating to approval of the proposed oil and gas lease, along with a copy of any documents that the University submits to the State Building Commission in requesting approval of the lease?
 
Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture: Yes, we plan to publish public meeting information we receive from the SBC on the UTIA Gas & Oil research website.
 
Question: UTIA has compared the sale of oil and gas from the Cumberland Forest to the sale of milk from UTIA’s dairy research program. Would you provide details on how the dairy research program is funded, the University’s agreements with any industry partners regarding the dairy research program, the annual revenues made from sales of milk over the past five years, and the manner in which those funds are used?  
 
Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture:  UT AgResearch operates three research dairies across Tennessee, one at the East TN AgResearch and Education Center (REC) near Knoxville, one at the Middle TN REC in Spring Hill and one at the Dairy REC in Lewisburg.  These dairies engage in research, teaching and extension outreach projects of importance to Tennessee’s dairy producers.  Other agricultural/natural resource research, teaching and extension projects also occur at these locations.
 
As with all of our AgResearch and Education Centers, the base budget is derived from two sources: (a) state funding allocated to the Tennessee Agricultural Experiment Station from the Tennessee Legislature and (b) revenue generated from the sale of agricultural products grown and generated from the REC.  In the case of these three diaries, milk produced is sold on the open market just as with any private dairy producer.  Our milk is sold to Dairy Farmers of America.
 
Revenue generated from milk sales at the three dairies over the past five years is presented in the table below.  The Dairy Farmers of America provides no input or recommendations on how these funds are directed or utilized.  They simply purchase our milk just as they do from any dairy producer in Tennessee.  These funds, along with the state dollars described above are placed in the REC’s account for use in supporting faculty-driven, unbiased research which provides answers to problems facing Tennessee’s dairy producers.
 
Milk sales.png
 
Question: UT is a land-grant institution, which requires the University to, among other federal legal mandates, comply with the requirements of the Hatch Act of 1887, which supports regional research and mandates collaboration among land-grant institutions so as to avoid duplicative research efforts.  What is the degree to which UTIA is  collaborating with colleagues at other academic institutions, such as Penn State (which is studying hydraulic fracture sites in the Allegheny State Forest) so as to not duplicate efforts?
 
Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture: Federally appropriated funds (capacity funding) are provided to Agricultural Experiment Stations across the United States through the United States Department of Agriculture – National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA). Twenty five percent (25%) of these funds are to be utilized for multistate research activities “to address problems that concern more than one state”.
 
As a result of several meetings and media coverage of our potential gas/oil project, multiple state and federal agencies, national laboratories, public and private universities and other entities have reached out to us expressing their interest in participating in the project, if approved. Likewise, we have investigated possible collaborations with potential partners who would bring needed capabilities should the project move forward.
If the project is approved, we expect that many partnerships and collaborations will be developed to successfully answer the wide-ranging research-based questions associated with this project.
 

The following questions are from Eric M., received April 12, 2013. Responded to on April 17, 2013.

Question: Since new studies are beginning to reveal that Natural Gas may not have a lesser impact on the greenhouse emissions due to leaking of methane from the drill area is UT planning to research and collect data on methane emissions from the drill area and production on the well site of methane leaks?

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture: One of the five research topic areas will be focused on Air Quality; as such our UT AgResearch and UTK faculty members aim to investigate the impacts of shale fracking on ambient air quality. This consortium of UT faculty members have recognized that the primary issue concerning the impact to air-quality is whether or not the shale fracking methods produce less of a greenhouse gas footprint than other more conventional fossil fuel extraction procedures. As such they have proposed to conduct direct field measurements of emissions during well development as well as during well completion and processing of gas for fugitive equipment leaks in storage and transportation activities.

Question: Since UT has decided to transition from burning coal to provide electric to its Knoxville campus have they considered using the natural gas removed from this proposed drilling area to provide the natural gas UT will need?  Is this a feasible proposition?

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture:  At this point we are too early in the research project planning process to know if the natural gas reserves under the UT Cumberland Forest are extensive enough to supply part of the UTK campus energy requirements. The Request for Proposal (RFP) process will attempt to identify a yet to be determined industry partner that will provide the exploration and drilling expertise for the UT AgResearch Gas and Oil Well Research Project. As such, the yet to be determined industry partner may not have the gas pipeline infrastructure to feasibly supply natural gas to the UTK campus.   


 
The following questions are from Jackson C., Lenoir City, received March 1, 2013. Responded to on March 6, 2013.

Question: The "conflict of interest" portion of the project's website (here) is a generic press release developed by Dean Brown last year.  It is informative, but will UTIA post a copy of the text of the actual conflict of interest policy? Please post on the website the full legal text of the Institute's and the University's policies (I understand that the UTIA policy differs from that of the University), as well as the full legal text of the conflict-of-interest guidelines and structure.  For example, who or what evaluates staff contracts, finances and proposals for potential conflicts? How are conflicts adjudicated? How are potential conflicts communicated to professional journals and societies?

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture:  The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture (UTIA) follows the conflict of interest policies of the UT System.  These policies and procedures will be posted to the UTIA gas and oil website.

Question: In many hydraulic fracture sites in Morgan County, sizeable quantities of Chattanooga Shale fines have been brought to the surface by drilling operations and discarded on the ground surface as unmanaged waste. Vehicles often drive through these discarded fines, and rain washes them into streams and low-lying ground far down-slope from the drilling pad. The tires of service vehicles leaving these drilling sites give off radiation and leave "hot spots" on local roads.  How will UTIA prevent this radioactive byproduct from being so carelessly spread into the surrounding environment?

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture:  The Chattanooga Shale has been known for decades to contain uranium
that was deposited with the mud that became the shale.  The Chattanooga Shale was even evaluated by the USGS during the 1950s (USGS Prof. Paper 357, 1961) as a potential uranium resource (U concentration around 0.006%), but has never before or since been considered a potentially economic source of uranium.  It will register above slightly "background" on a rudimentary radiation counter.  Very little of the shale would be brought to the surface during drilling because the "yet-to-be" industry partner would be primarily interested in producing natural gas, not solid or liquid hydrocarbons. It should also be noted that radiation levels in the Chattanooga Shale are known to be very low and are not considered to be a human health contact threat in open air environments.  Also, Existing Oil and Gas regulations pertaining to erosion control, site stabilization, and waste disposal specify that drilling fines must be contained on the site and cannot be allowed to wash off the site. The regulations also specify that any radiological waste produced must be disposed of in accordance with Division of Radiological Health requirements.

Question: Current TDEC requirements are less stringent than the minimal recommendations of the American Petroleum Institute.  UTIA's reliance on TDEC to provide adequate regulatory oversight may not fully protect the land and water.  By lease contract requirements, the University can require more stringent requirements such as compliance with the Clean Water Act. Has the Institute developed more stringent language for the proposed lease contract? If so, please post this language on the
Institute website for public consideration.  If not, why not?

Answer from Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC): TDEC regulations are consistent with API's recommendations. However, no states have adopted API standards universally into their rules, nor does API recommend that states do so. API standards are broadly based to cover all kinds of drilling in various geologies, depths, and pressures nationwide. To adopt all API guidance would be to require, for example, an operator to spend 10 times more for a certain grade of steel pipe, when a much cheaper pipe would be more than adequately protective for a shallow, low pressure well. Accordingly, TDEC has adopted API performance-based best practices as the foundation for TN field operations, which provide the flexibility to implement appropriately protective methods and materials based upon the depths and pressures that will be encountered at a given well site.




Question: From Drs. Henry Spratt and Joe Wilferth of the University of Tennessee Chattanooga, received February 27, 2013. Responded to on March 3, 2013. Click here to read.

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture: Click here to read. 



 
Question: Considering the small footprint of the actual fracking operations, the minimum # of people possibly affected and the premium payout to cover the cost of study, operations & royalty: Is there a better location/geography for this endeavor in the U.S. much less Tennessee? -Don P., received on February 25, 2013. Responded to on February 25, 2013.
 
Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture:
 UT is proposing this long-term research project to focus on water quality, air quality, terrestrial ecosystems, geological formations, and best management practices as associated with gas and oil development. The UT Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center - Cumberland Forest is a field-based research laboratory, and hence the property is managed under our "long term" mission which is to: (1) provide the land and supporting resources necessary for conducting modern and effective forestry, wildlife, and associated social, biological and ecological research programs; (2) demonstrate the application of optimal forest and wildlife management technologies; and (3) assist  with transfer of new technology to forest land owners and industries.

Given that the Cumberland Forest is a controlled field based research laboratory, with a wealth of baseline natural resources data from previous research projects, we feel it provides suitable geography to conduct this proposed study. We also feel that the study will also meet a request from the environmental community, who asked for more applied research in gas and oil well development during the TDEC public hearings held this past summer.
 
UT researchers will drive the project, not the yet-to-be named industry partner. UT will decide when and how the research is conducted, and it will be done within full compliance of TDEC regulations and stringent forest stewardship practices of the Center. Finally, as the land grant university of Tennessee, we feel the proposed project it is within our mission to conduct research, provide educational outreach opportunities, and technology transfer for the public.



 
The following questions are from Pamela S., received February 19, 2013. Responded to on February 20, 2013.

Question: Can you tell me how many people will be employed during the gas extraction on the UT property and the water source for the project?

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture:
The potential fracking drilling process will be primarily composed of nitrogen gas and sand. TDEC will be responsible for permitting the “yet-to-be” named industry partner, who will be required to be in full compliance of the state regulations and requirements.

Question: GTX employees? Local individuals?

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture: Unknown as to who the “yet-to-be” named industry will be since we have not yet advertised the project to prospective proposers. We also do not know how many employees would be employed since that would depend on the timing of the research plan implementation, and the associated gas and oil well development operations.  

Question: UT Staff?

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture: Although we do not know the total number of UT staff/scientists who will be working on the project, we did host a consortium of UT faculty members last year to discuss the proposed project. Many different disciplines from both the UT Institute of Agriculture and UTK were represented at the event. As a result we were able to focus the proposed UT AgResearch Gas and Oil Well Project in the following five topical  areas: water quality, air quality, terrestrial ecosystems, geological formations, and best management practices. The proposed project will take place on our UT Cumberland Forest property, which is a field-based research laboratory and been under long-term stewardship and management by UT AgResearch.


Question: Students (research grant $$)?

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture: Unknown at this time, although we plan to reinvest the money received from the gas and oil development back into the research project. This will provide an opportunity for graduate students to participate in science-based scholarly activities on our field research laboratory in Morgan and Scott counties. We also anticipate that our scientists will secure other external research grants associated with the focus of the project, and that research- based partnerships will be formed with other outside entities. 



 
The following questions are from Jackson C., Lenoir City, TN, received on February 15, 2013. Responded to on February 17, 2013.

Question: What policies are in place, or will be put in place, to ensure there are no conflicts of interest in this project like the ones that plagued similar projects at the University of Texas and the State University of New York at Buffalo?

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture: Please go to the following website to learn more about the "Conflict of Interest" requirements of the UT Institute of Agriculture. https://ag.tennessee.edu/news/Pages/3T-12d-12.aspx

Question: Why was language that the project will continue "as long as product is being produced in paying quantities" included in the January 31 proposal to the SBC, if the project is research-based?

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture: This is a long-term research project focused on water quality, air quality, terrestrial ecosystems, geological formations, and best management practices. Moreover, our UT Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center - Cumberland Forest is a field-based research laboratory, and hence the property is managed under our "long term" mission which is to: (1) provide the land and supporting resources necessary for conducting modern and effective forestry, wildlife, and associated social, biological and ecological research programs; (2) demonstrate the application of optimal forest and wildlife management technologies; and (3) assist with transfer of new technology to forest land owners and industries.

Question: How will UTIA "address concerned members of the public," following its request to defer the project proposal to the SBC?

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture: We hosted a "Open House" on December 6th, 2012, in Wartburg, TN where we engaged the public in a forum type setting providing interaction with subject matter experts in the areas of water quality, air quality, terrestrial ecosystems, geological formations, and best management practices. Moreover, we have met with environmental groups and have recently formed an Advisory Council for the project comprised of landowners, citizens, resource professionals, environmental organizations, government officials and UT researchers that will meet multiple times per year to discuss the research project as outlined above.

Question: The Chattanooga Shale is known to contain some radioactive elements.  How will UTIA ensure that these do not spread to groundwater, surface water, or any waste products of the proposed wells?

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture: The Chattanooga Shale has been known for decades to contain uranium that was deposited with the mud that became the shale. The Chattanooga was even evaluated by the USGS during the 1950s (USGS Prof. Paper 357, 1961) as a potential uranium resource (U concentration around 0.006%), but has never before or since been considered a potentially economic source of uranium. It will register above slightly "background" on a rudimentary radiation counter. Very little of the shale would be brought to the surface during drilling because any leasee would be primarily interested in producing natural gas, not solid or liquid hydrocarbons; very small quantities of radioactive daughter product gases would be present in the natural gas (Robert Hatcher, UT Distinguished Scientist).

Question: Will local water sources be used in the fracking operations? How much water will be used? How will UTIA mitigate this use of local water sources and ensure the supply for the community?

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture: The "yet-to-be" named industry partner that eventually leases the acreage will make their own decision as to whether or not to drill conventional holes for oil (and gas) in the rocks above or below the Chattanooga Shale or to concentrate on producing gas by drilling into the Chattanooga Shale and putting in a horizontal component which would be fracked using mainly nitrogen gas and sand. Any liquids used in the process are captured and treated as part of the production process, again under the TDEC compliance requirements.

Question: What waste products will the wells produce? How will these waste products be safely stored, transported, and disposed of?

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture:The "yet-to-be" named industry partner will be permitted under TDEC and will be required to be in full compliance of TDEC regulations http://www.tn.gov/environment/land.shtml.

Question: Why did UTIA not announce the inclusion of its proposal for an RFP in the SBC's January 31 meeting beforehand?

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture: Per the Friday 2/15 Knoxville News Sentinel, the proposal for the RFP review has been set for March 15th.

Question: Given that the EPA recently released a study that listed natural gas and oil production as the second-largest source of U.S. greenhouse gases, how will UTIA offset the emissions of the project?

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture:During last week's State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama stated the following

"Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race. And today, no area holds more promise than our investments in American energy. After years of talking about it, we are finally poised to control our own energy future. We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years. We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas, and the amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like wind and solar – with tens of thousands of good, American jobs to show for it. We produce more natural gas than ever before – and nearly everyone’s energy bill is lower because of it. And over the last four years, our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet have actually fallen. The natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence. That’s why my Administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits. But I also want to work with this Congress to encourage the research and technology that helps natural gas burn even cleaner and protects our air and water. Indeed, much of our new-found energy is drawn from lands and waters that we, the public, own together. So tonight, I propose we use some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good."

As the land grant institution of Tennessee, we believe this proposed project not only meets our mission of research, educational outreach, and technology transfer, but also supports the grand vision of our president.




Question: How many people have died from fracking in Tennessee? Do you have all the fracking results in Tennessee such as how many people died? -Mary S., received on February 12, 2013. Responded to on February 13, 2013.
 
Answer from Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC):
 No one has died in TN from fracking activities. As far as we know, no one anywhere in the country has died from fracking activity. In fact, in TN, we have never documented a single instance of contamination of a well, groundwater, or streams from fracking activities.
 


The environmental problems we experience in TN from oil and gas well drilling have been very minimal, and usually involve erosion and sediment runoff from access roads and pads cut in mountainous terrain, and the rare small oil spill caused by equipment failure or vandalism. None of these things are associated with the process of fracking.




The following questions are from M. Reed, received February 9, 2013. Responded to on February 11, 2013.

Question: Is there any plan to study how the fracking process effects of the geology, especially the Karst topography?

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture Research Subject Matter Specialist:
There is no limestone at or near the surface in the area of the UT Forest Research lands in Morgan and Scott Counties, so this is the reason there is no karst topography here.  There is abundant karst to the SE from Oliver Springs eastward, because a lot of limestone is exposed there. Additional comments regarding the impact of fracking on geology are in the answer to your second question.

Question: Is it possible to look at the extent of fissures/fractures and how they may impact/interact with the ground water hydrology?

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture Research Subject Matter Specialist: The goal in fracking is to create fractures and increase the surface area around a horizontal drillhole to encourage flow of natural gas into the hole; ideally these fractures do not extend beyond the few tens of feet of vertical thickness of the Chattanooga Shale, and do not traverse the several thousand feet of rock separating the drillhole from the surface (and near surface ground water system).  Hopefully some engineers in concert with a geologist like myself will undertake the research problem of trying to determine the exact distance from the drillhole that fractures propagate. These distances have been determined in several shale units in the U.S. where fracking has been used.

Basically, the fracking process is carried out at sufficient depths that there should be no interaction with ground water.  The problems with ground water contamination almost always arise (probably >99%  of the time) when the company does not handle their fluids properly on the surface or the cement surrounding the casing pipes is cracked or there are voids left in it when it is poured.  Realize that in TN fracking is not done with fluids but with nitrogen, so impact on ground water should be nil, because there are no liquids to manage.



The following questions are from Robert W., received January 29, 2013. Responded to on February 8, 2013.

Question: Will this adversely affect the water table?
Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture:

 The proposed UT AgResearch Gas and Oil Well Research Project will
address water quality, air quality, terrestrial ecosystems, geological formations, and best management practices as associated with gas and oil well development. As such, UT scientists will monitor and measure water quality before, during, and after the fracking drilling process as part of the research project.

Question: Will it adversely affect wells in and around the area? Will it otherwise do damage to the environment?
Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture:

The yet-to-be determined industry partner for the project will be
required to meet all TDEC compliance regulations along with the stringent Forest Stewardship guidelines of the UT Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center.

Question: Will UT repair everything that it adversely affects?
Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture:

The yet-to-be named industry partner will be permitted under TDEC compliance regulations and field auditing requirements, and the proposed UT AgResearch Gas and Oil Well Research Project lease will include additional requirements for the protection of the site.


 
The following questions are from Rebecca S., Joelton, TN, received February 5, 2013. Responded to on February 6, 2013.

Question: Why isn't UT studying fracking that is occurring elsewhere instead of opening up state university-owned land to this dangerous or at least potentially practice?

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture: The UT Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center – Cumberland Forest is a field research laboratory that has a wealth of baseline natural resources data from previous research projects provides a foundation for this proposed study. UT researchers will drive the project, not the yet-to-be named industry partner. UT will decide when and how the research is conducted, and it will be done within full compliance of TDEC regulations and stringent forest stewardship practices of the Center. As the land grant university of Tennessee the proposed project it is within our mission to conduct research, provide educational outreach opportunities, and technology transfer for the public.

Question: Why is UT offering to use its resources to conduct research for a private industry?

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture: We have to secure an industry partner in order to conduct the proposed gas and oil well research which is focused on water quality, air quality, geological formations, terrestrial ecosystems, best management practices. The project is based on similar partnerships that we have with other agricultural and natural resources industries at other AgResearch and Education Centers across the state.




The following questions are from Cameo J., student at UTK, received February 6, 2013. Responded to on February 6, 2013.

Question: What environmental concerns does the university have (if any), about this project?

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture: AgResearch is proposing the project partly as a result of the recent public TDEC hearings calling for more research on the Fracking process in Tennessee. The UT Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center is a field based forest research laboratory that can provide the resources to accomplish this type of research. The proposed research also meets the land grant mission of the of the University of Tennessee for conducting research, providing educational outreach, and technology transfer for the public.

Question: What exactly is the university planning on studying during this project?

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture: The proposed UT AgResearch Gas and Oil Well Research Project will be focused on water quality, air quality, geological formations, terrestrial ecosystems, and best management practices associated with gas and oil well development.

Question: Why can the research not be done on land that has already gone under the fracking process?

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture: UT researchers will be investigating the entire fracking process (before, during, and after drilling). The UT Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center - Cumberland Forest research laboratory can provide the baseline data, resources, and staff to assist our scientists in studying how water quality, air quality, terrestrial ecosystems, geological formations, and best management practices are associated with the fracking process.

Question: There have been questions that UT is biased on whether or not this project will cause environmental concerns. How is UT addressing these concerns?

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture: The UT AgResearch Gas and Oil Well Research Project Request for Proposal (RFP) requires the yet-to-be named industry partner to be permitted and in full compliance of all TDEC regulations. The UT Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center has additional forest stewardship requirements which are part of the lease documents.

Question: When does UT plan on officially beginning this process?

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture: We do not have an official date for the start time of the UT AgResearch Gas and Oil Well Research Project, but we hope to receive approval to advertise a Request for Proposal (RFP) in 2013 which is the start if the process.




The following questions are from Matt L., Knoxville Independent Media
, received February 5, 2013. Responded to on February 6, 2013.

Question: Will UT allow complete access to all of the oil / gas / fracking sites by independent media? How will UT find these independent media representatives? I would like to be added to the complete access media list as a member of Knoxville Independent Media.

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture:
UT AgResearch welcomes visitors, including members of the media, but for the safety of our visitors and to preserve the integrity of research sites, access to UT Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center sites, with the exception of the UT Arboretum, is permitted by advance permission only. Those granted permission to visit sites other than the Arboretum will be escorted by a center staff member. The center is in the process of  developing a  comprehensive plan for field site visits, but we expect  as part of the UT land grant mission that  the site will be open only occasionally for special educational outreach events.

Question: Will UT allow samples to be taken of all drilling fluids / fracking fluids for independent scientific analysis prior to and during drilling and prior to underground injection and after underground injection?

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture: UT faculty will be working with the yet-to-be named industry partner and will be monitoring, measuring, and collecting data before, during, and after the drilling as part of the proposed scientific research project.

Question: Will UT require fracking companies to release to the public Material Safety Data Sheets for all chemicals used in fracking fluid including proprietary chemicals?

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture: The yet-to-be named industry partner must meet all applicable local, state, and federal compliance regulations.  

Question: Will UT require the fracking companies to release to the public complete lists of all chemicals in proprietary chemicals used in the drilling / fracking / and post fracking processes? Including a list of percentages of each chemicals.

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture: The yet-to-be named industry partner will be required to meet all required TDEC regulations regarding the fracking process and use of chemicals.

Question: Will UT require the fracking companies to provide details about the origins of the water used in the fracking process? And the origins of the drilling and fracking chemicals.

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture: One of the topic areas proposed by the AgResearch Gas and Oil Well Project will be focused on water quality as it relates to the fracking process. 

Question: Will UT allow independent media video footage to be taken of the entire process of drilling / fracking the wells and the entire process of bringing the wells to production?

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture: Although we plan to allow for field site visits to the property during future educational outreach events, we cannot guarantee full access to the property for the entire drilling process due to safety and security requirements.

Question: Will UT provide copies of safety trainings which fracking contractors provide to their workers?

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture: Safety will be a priority for this project and the yet-to-named industry partner to be in full compliance of OSHA requirements.

Question: What types of erosion control will UT require for oil and gas well pads?

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture: The yet-to-be named industry partner will have to construct the well pads per TDEC requirements and current Best Management Practices. Additionally, UT scientists will be studying pad size, placement, shape, etc. as part of the project to provide for continuous improvement of well pad design.   

Question: How will UT provide inspection and enforcement of non compliance of UT requirements for this project?

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture: The yet-to-be named industry partner will fall under TDEC inspection and enforcement requirements as the permit holder.

Question: Will UT require oil and gas companies to follow all TDEC rules and regulations in regards to oil and gas and protecting the environment?

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture: The yet-to-named industry partner will be required to meet all TDEC rules and regulations.

Question: Will UT require oil and gas companies to follow oil and gas rules and other environmental regulations more stringent than those offered by TDEC such as following all the rules included in the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and any and all other environmental protection laws which may or may not be currently applied to the oil and gas industry within the US?

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture: The yet-to-be named industry partner must meet all applicable local, state, and federal compliance regulations.  

Question: How many companies will UT contract out for this drilling / fracking / well head work / production of each oil and gas well?

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture: The Request for Proposal (RFP) process is intended to identify one industry partner for the project.

Question: How many oil and gas wells will UT allowed to be drilled in their property?

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture: The Request for Proposal (RFP) will require the selected industry partner to drill at least two wells per year.

Question: How many oil and gas wells currently exist on UT owned properties?

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture: The UT Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center currently has one 250 acre petroleum lease on the Cumberland Forest - South Tract.

Question: How many active oil and gas wells currently exist on UT owned properties?  How many abandoned wells exist on UT properties?

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture: Royalties from the active lease are reinvested back into the operation of the UT Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center.

Question: How many oil and gas wells will UT allowed to be drilled / fracked at the same time on UT owned property?

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture: Unknown at this time, although all selected well locations have to be reviewed/approved by UT AgResearch personnel well in advanced of drilling operations. 

Question: How much money does UT stand to make from these future oil and gas wells?

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture:  It is unknown what UT will make off of this project due to the current economic conditions and the well head price of natural gas. However, proceeds received from the yet-to-be named industry partner will be reinvested into the research project and the associated UT Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center operations.  

Question: How much money does UT currently make on oil and gas wells on UT properties?

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture: Royalties from the current petroleum lease are reinvested back into the operation of the UT Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center.

Question: How does UT plan to spend the money it makes from oil and gas wells on it's properties?

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture:  Proceeds received from the yet-to-be named industry partner will be reinvested into the research project and the associated UT Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center operations.  

Question: Does UT plan to monitor for methane leaks around oil and gas wells on UT owned properties?

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture: One of the topical areas of the UT AgResearch Gas and Oil Well Research Project is to monitor and measure air quality as it relates to the fracking process.

Question: How does independent media receive a copy of UT's monitoring / research proposal documents related to past, present, and future oil and gas wells on UT owned properties or any other such documents that exist in UT's possession?

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture: Public documents related to the proposed UT AgResearch Gas and Oil Well Research Project will be posted to the Gas and Oil website

Question: Will UT hold public hearings within 10 miles of each oil / gas well 4 months prior to each well being drilled? Will UT take into consideration the comments of the public during these hearings?  How will UT alert the public about these hearings?

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture: An Advisory Board is being formed that will be expected to provide input, questions, and ideas regarding the research project. At the present time UT does not have a plan in place to hold future public hearings on the proposed well locations.




Question: I would like to strongly suggest that UT ask community members/citizens to have an active role in the research. To help the community and the university to work together to ensure both are protected and that both get information needed to keep the negative impacts from happening. BMPs for UT and the Industry may vary greatly from BMPs for the community members and the environment they live in. -Anne L., from the December 6 Open House in Wartburg, TN.

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture: UT has formed an Advisory Board for our proposed Gas & Oil Research Project. The Advisory Board is made up of a diverse group of stakeholders including members of environmental groups, landowners, industry and state agencies. The first meeting of the Advisory Board is scheduled for later in February. 



 

Question: In the event there is environmental damage, how do you plan to prevent further damage via adaptive mgmt. or will there be a policy for compensation/mitigation? Will the gas company be responsible for any compensation/mitigation and be required to handle it in a timely and equitable manner, or if they do not take care of it will the university be responsible for it? -Mary R., from the December 6 Open House in Wartburg, TN.

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture: The successful RFP proposer will have to demonstrate an understanding of and ability to adhere to emerging industry security standards for protection of people, equipment, real estate and natural resources in any way associated with its operations on the property. This would include best management practices acceptable to the university and federal, state and local standards, including:

o   Maintain well sites and examine access roads.

o   Patrol pipelines for signs of pipeline and equipment integrity.

o   Utilize and upgrade existing roads when possible to minimize disturbance.

o   Roadways will consist of ditches adequately sized to handle runoff of immediate areas and divert it to the drainage areas designated to eliminate sediment before it reaches the waters of the state.

o   Hydroseed all exposed soil, including a bonded fiber matrix along with a seed mix.

o   The leasing company will assume all responsibilities and bear the burden of cleanup for any and all environmental consequences of its operations on UT property, in the event it became necessary.



 

Question: From the Tennessee Parks and Greenway Foundation, received December 14, 2012. Responded to on January 11, 2013.

Answer from UT Institute of Agriculture: Click here to read the letter from the Tennessee Parks and Greenway Foundation and UTIA Chancellor Arrington's Response



 
​​