House approves bill on drilling at state colleges

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HARRISBURG -- The state House of Representatives approved a measure tonight that could expand drilling on state-owned lands, including on the campuses of the State System of Higher Education colleges.

The chamber voted 131-68 on the legislation, which will allow the state Department of General Services to lease land at colleges within the State System of Higher Education or on other state-owned properties for extracting oil, gas, coal and limestone.

The state already has about 600,000 acres of forestland available for gas drilling, but has considered leasing other property, such as land surrounding state prisons.

Colleges that allow gas drilling would be able to keep 40 percent of any royalties, with the remainder to be distributed among State System colleges with no mineral deposits. Of those royalty dollars, 15 percent must be devoted to reducing tuition costs -- an additional provision that the House inserted this week.

Supporters from both sides of the aisle, including Rep. Matt Baker, R-Tioga, touted it as "a potential new source of revenue" for the State System schools. Democratic Rep. Greg Vitali of Delaware County, speaking in opposition, argued that allowing the industrial activity on campus would "interfere with the educational process."

The proposal from Sen. Don White, R-Indiana, now awaits a final vote in the Senate. A spokesman said the chamber bring up the bill before adjourning at the end of the week.

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Harrisburg Bureau Chief Laura Olson: or 717-787-4254. First Published June 26, 2012 8:15 PM


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