Search expands for oil deposits at Indiana State University

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TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — A company is expanding its search for oil deposits on Indiana State University property.

Pioneer Oil Co., based in Lawrenceville, Illinois, signed an oil and gas lease in 2012 with the university, which has collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in royalties under the deal.

The company finished drilling a new test well this week on a grassy area east of Holmstedt Hall and south of Root Hall, ISU Senior Vice President of Finance and Administration Diann McKee told the Tribune-Star ( ).

McKee said she did not know if they found more reserves. A company representative was not available for comment.

No production wells are allowed on the main campus, and royalties are designated for deferred facility maintenance work rather than operational expenses, McKee said. But at least one faculty member expressed concerns.

Economics professor Paul Burkett said faculty were told nothing of the recent drilling and he and others have noticed a strong chemical odor.

The drilling, he added, sends the wrong message to students.

“I don’t see how new students are seeing that this helps the university, especially with climate change,” Burkett said. “We are supposed to be a sustainability university,” and that seems inconsistent with the oil drilling, he added.

McKee said ISU included stringent measures in the agreement with Pioneer to protect the campus, students and employees. ISU has “very carefully monitored” for odors or fumes from the drill site. “We have had no complaints and we have not noticed any ourselves,” she said.

In January 2015, the university reported that royalties had amounted to $350,000 up to that point. Over the past fiscal year, ISU received about $100,000, McKee said, noting that the price of crude oil has fallen.

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