HARRISBURG -- A bill is headed to Gov. Tom Corbett to allow Pennsylvania's state-owned universities to keep the proceeds if a college decides to lease land for gas drilling.
While those 14 universities previously could have hosted Marcellus Shale drilling or other mineral extraction on their campuses, any revenue from the leasing would have been sent back to state coffers instead of retained at the school.
Now any royalties or bonuses would be divided between the school involved in the drilling lease and other system institutions.
The measure passed a final vote in the state House of Representatives on Tuesday by a tally of 136-62. It was approved in the Senate in June by a vote of 46-3.
The measure also allows state officials to lease other state-owned lands, such as property on the expansive state prison grounds, with a portion of any proceeds to be kept by the state agency hosting the drilling site.
Approximately 700,000 acres of state forest land are under lease for drilling, and both the Game Commission and Fish and Boat Commission also have entered into lease agreements.
Six state-owned universities -- Mansfield, Lock Haven, Indiana, California, Clarion and Slippery Rock -- are located within the boundaries of the gas-rich Marcellus Shale rock formation.
If leasing goes forward at one of those schools, the leasing college would retain 50 percent of any money received due to the drilling activity. Another 35 percent would be distributed to other system schools, and the remaining 15 percent would be earmarked for tuition assistance at state-owned colleges.
"It simply provides a new opportunity to generate revenue, while helping students, supporting Pennsylvania's environmental protection efforts and boosting our state economy through the creation of new jobs," said Sen. Don White, R-Indiana, the bill's sponsor.
State System spokesman Kenn Marshall said the colleges had not pursued drilling leases prior to the bill's approval because the schools were not able to keep the proceeds. He said several system universities are interested in exploring lease options.
California University's Student Association Inc., a student nonprofit separate from the university, has had a lease with Antero Resources Appalachian Corp. since January 2011, though no drilling has occurred.
Harrisburg Bureau chief Laura Olson: email@example.com or 717-787-4254.