Future of project to be evaluated by UTIA

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture has decided to place its gas and oil research initiative on hold after receiving no bids from potential industry partners. Last week, UTIA received a “no-bid” response letter from CNX Gas Company and its subsidiary CONSOL Energy, citing that the project would not be economically viable for the company under the terms outlined in the Request for Proposals.

“While we are disappointed in the outcome, we are going to look at the feasibility of continuing this innovative research,” said Kevin Hoyt, director of the Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center.

UTIA had sought an industry partner to conduct the drilling component of a research project designed to evaluate the environmental effects of natural gas extraction in Tennessee. The study was designed to investigate the potential impacts of oil and gas extraction on water quality, air quality, geology, flora and fauna. The research findings were to be peer-reviewed and published in scientific journals, independent of the potential industry partner. The proposed scientific investigation was a response to calls for additional research into the oil and gas extraction process and its environmental impacts.

A website providing background on the research was designed to keep interested parties informed about the project as it moved forward. As a result, a number of questions were received and answered by UTIA. The questions and answers were posted to the website to encourage dialog about the project.

Throughout the process, UTIA sought to engage the input of a diverse array of stakeholders including landowners, state agencies, elected officials, and industry and environmental groups through the formation of an advisory council. The advisory council met with UTIA researchers to develop a series of potential research questions, pending state approval of the project. As a result of advisory council and additional faculty meetings, UTIA faculty were in the process of developing white papers to outline future research projects.

“I appreciate the efforts of the stakeholders who worked so hard on the project,” said Larry Arrington, UTIA chancellor. “Our faculty are also to be commended on their innovative proposals for this much needed research for the state of Tennessee,” he said.

The research initiative was to be a topic of discussion at the upcoming UT Board of Trustees meeting in October, and award of a lease was to be considered by the State Building Commission, pending receipt of one or more industry bids. The item has been removed from both agendas.

“We continue to hear concerns from the public about the environmental impacts of gas and oil extraction,” said Bill Brown, dean of UT AgResearch. “We’re looking forward to continued work with our stakeholders regarding possibilities of moving the project forward,” he said.

The UT Institute of Agriculture provides instruction, research and public service through the UT College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, the UT College of Veterinary Medicine, UT AgResearch with its 10 AgResearch and Educations centers and UT Extension offices in every county of the state.



Patricia McDaniels, UTIA Marketing and Communications, 615-835-4570