Fracking and UNT

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At the UNT polling place this week, the workers being paid by Denton Taxpayers for a Strong Economy are handing out a piggy bank flyer that reads in part: “A drilling ban will cost UNT MILLIONS IN LOST REVENUE resulting in either cut-backs or higher tuition.”

We have asked four different people handing out this flyer for a reference or resource to support that claim. No one has had an answer. That’s particularly irksome on a college campus where students are taught to verify empirical claims with references.

The industry-funded Perryman report does mention UNT twice and talks about “millions.” But they are both offhand speculations with no data or analyses to back them up. There is nothing else on their website.

So, we went to the Denton Central Appraisal District to find out the appraised mineral values held by UNT and the Board of Regents. Those data show UNT with active gas wells starting in 2008.

The average annual mineral wealth held by UNT since then is about $125 thousand. After we pass the ban, there would be no new fracking but the UNT wells will continue to produce gas. Given the marginal location of UNT on the shale and the fact that they have drained the sweetest portions already, it’s hard to see how millions will be lost with no new fracking.

One other point: the revenues are extremely sporadic – in some years they are as low as $5,000. This is not the kind of activity you do any long-term investment or fiscal planning with.

UNT’s budget is about $865 million. So, fracking contributes 0.01%. That’s a hundredth of one percent. Or to put it differently, it’s the same as the annual tuition from six resident or four out of state students. There are 37,000 students at UNT.

Boy, this all seems so familiar – unfounded claims about huge losses from the ban that vanish as soon as we shed light on them.