New Castle News

November 6, 2012

Westminster makes no decision on shale leasing

Debbie Wachter
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — A Westminster College board of trustees meeting Saturday yielded no decision on the leasing of college land for shale drilling.

Mark Meighen, Westminster’s senior director of marketing and communications, said Monday the college has no timetable for deciding on the matter.

The college has 340 acres that could garner as much as $1 million up front for leases, in addition to royalty payments.

Information about the prospect was discussed at a public meeting at the college last month, when Kenneth Romig, the college’s vice president for finance and management services, laid out the pros and cons to be considered. He said any drilling sites most likely would be off campus.

Meighan would not divulge Monday which drilling company has approached the college about leasing, nor would he discuss details.

“We’re not sharing any information about who’s talking to the college,” he said.

He said the subject came up at Saturday’s fall trustees meeting, but nothing was decided. Board members were to have met in closed session to discuss the option.

Board member Thomas S. Mansell said the matter was not discussed among the board — which has 40 trustees — but that it was taken up by certain members of the property committee who are continuing to study the matter.

He deferred further comment to Meighan.

Clarence Harms, director of the Westminster College field station, an outdoor laboratory for biological and environmental sciences, had urged caution in the decision at the public meeting last month.

He said Monday he received Meighan’s similar statement about the delay of any leasing decision.

“We need to be very cautious about the decisions we’re going to make, that down the road will affect us 50 or 100 years from now.”

While Harms said he would not want to see a drilling rig on the 55 acres occupied by the college field station, the field station building and his home are heated by natural gas, and he understands the economic side.

“What we need to do is make sure we have proper state and federal legislation that will protect the owners of property if things should go wrong,” he said. “We need to push Harrisburg and work to make sure we have proper regulations for the fracking process.”

(Email: dwachter@ncnewsonline.com)