Officials Close Door On More Fracking On State Land

Officials Close Door On More Fracking On State Land

By Ben Hall. CREATED Jun 13, 2013 - UPDATED: Mar 11, 2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn -- State officials closed the door Thursday on widespread drilling for natural gas -- also known as fracking -- on state-owned land, at least for now.

But NewsChannel 5 Investigates discovered the state is not ruling out other kinds of mining on state property.

Secretary of State Tre Hargett and State Treasurer David Lillard took turns at the State Building Commission meeting saying they do not want state agencies to bring proposals to the commission that involve drilling for natural gas on state land.

"It they are seeking that, I am not interested in any way in this coming before this body in the very near future, so I just want to put that to rest as a moment of personal privilege," Secretary of State Tre Hargett said.

The comments come after the State Building Commission allowed the University of Tennessee to move forward with plans to drill for natural gas on 8000 acres owned by the university.

UT claims it's a research project.  Building Commission members now say they wouldn't consider any more fracking on state land until that research is completed.

"I don't think I would be supporting any attempt to use that method on any other state property so I just want agencies out there to know that," State Treasurer David Lillard said.

But notably missing from their comments were bans on other types of mining.

A NewsChannel 5 investigation also revealed the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is pursuing two multimillion-dollar -- first of their kind -- contracts.

TWRA has hired an attorney to negotiate a deal with Crossville Coal that would allow coal mining under the Catoosa Wildlife Management Area.

The agency is also considering a proposal from an oil company to drill on a state owned wetland.

TWRA's Assistant Director Steve Patrick told NewsChannel 5 Investigates earlier this year the agency had never mined coal or drilled for oil on state owned land before.

NewsChannel 5 asked "Is this about the money for TWRA?"

Patrick responded, "Well yea.  It's certainly what gets your attention."

Patrick told us earlier this year the agency believed the State Building Commission might approve the proposals because of its vote on the University of Tennessee land. 

Tre Hargett told NewsChannel 5 Investigates after the meeting that he could not rule out the coal mining proposal, but he still had not seen it.

Several environmental groups have promised to oppose any plans to mine on state owned property.

Ben Hall

Ben Hall

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Ben Hall is a veteran reporter at NewsChannel 5. He has covered the state legislature, presidential campaigns and is presently part of NewsChannel 5's award-winning investigative unit.

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