Pennsylvania legislators are in agreement on a bill that would allow leasing of lands for development of natural resources on the campuses of the 14 universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), but the bill is hung up in a dispute between the state House and Senate as to how to spend the money.
Senate Bill 367, introduced by Sen. Don White (R-Indiana), which passed the Senate Tuesday, would allow leasing for the development of oil, natural gas, coal and coalbed methane or limestone on university properties and properties controlled by other state agencies, such as the state welfare, transportation and corrections departments.
The bill does not include forest lands or parks owned by the state that have their own leasing regulations.
The bill also provides that the universities and agencies could allow a right-of-way through their land in connection with the development. The PASSHE administration would manage the lease auction process and collection of revenue for the universities, but the presidents of the individual universities would have to agree in writing to the leasing and development.
The universities, scattered throughout the state, are on properties generally ranging from 300 to 500 acres, with Slippery Rock University, which is located about 50 miles north of Pittsburgh, being one of the largest with nearly 700 acres. The universities are not located in big cities and the system does not include Penn State University.
The Pennsylvania House also passed the Senate bill Tuesday, but with amendments revising the allocation of revenues. The amended bill is now back in the Senate, but prospects for agreement on a compromise are not good. The state legislature recesses June 30 until September. Asked if the bill might pass in the fall session, Joe Pittman, White’s chief of staff, said anything was possible, but he was making no predictions.
The Senate version of the bill would allocate 40% of revenues to the university where the resource is leased or extracted and 60% to PASSHE, to be distributed among the other universities where there is no resource leasing or development. The money is to be used for deferred maintenance or energy efficiency or energy cost-saving improvements.
The House bill would redirect the spending of the funds, saying 15% of the money received by the universities should go to tuition reduction.
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