University of Tennessee Wins Approval for Hydraulic Fracturing Plan

On March 15, 2013, the Tennessee State Building Commission voted unanimously to approve a proposal by the University of Tennessee that would allow private natural gas drilling in Cumberland Forest, an area owned by the university.

The University intends to use the revenue from the natural gas activities to fund a research program into the effects of hydraulic fracturing and gas extraction. The school’s Institute of Agriculture is leading a “science-based investigation,” which will examine water quality, geology, air quality, terrestrial ecosystems, and best management practices and education.

The Building Commission vote allows the university to release a request for bids seeking an industry partner for the project. After a company’s bid is selected, the contract would be subject to Commission approval.

Since 1991, approximately 250 acres in the Cumberland Forest have been subject to a separate oil and gas lease. 

The lease generates $6,700 in annual revenue, which funds “upkeep and protection of the property” including “land surveys, forest fire protection equipment, [and] construction/improvement of roads,” according to the University

The University has no plans to enter into oil and gas leases on any additional properties.

This article was prepared by Lauren Brogdon ( or 713 651 5375) from Fulbright’s Litigation practice.