Protests ensue after University of Tennessee receives approval for fracking on school land

University of Tennessee officials are moving forward with a plan to drill oil and gas wells for hydraulic fracturing—also known as fracking— on land owned by the school after receiving approval from the state legislature, reports the Knoxville News Sentinel.

The university will soon begin hearing bids from oil and gas companies to lease some of the 8,000 acres UT owns in what’s called the Cumberland Research Forest.

Here’s where it gets interesting.

As you might suspect, the move has drawn the ire of countless environmentalists and otherwise concerned protesters uncomfortable with the idea of a school using state-owned research land for fracking.

The state subcommittee heard from 24 protesters before making its decision and as a result of the decision another 50 protesters recently gathered near the state capitol in Nashville to speak out.

However, UT’s plan is to use the revenues generated from the natural gas and oil produced to, get this, conduct research on the effects fracking has on the environment. The school’s endgame is to take what they learn and come up with a list of best management practices for fracking.

Some might say that’s using the profits of environmental irresponsibility to become more environmentally responsible. Others might call it clever. Regardless, it will be interesting to see how this plays out.