Cornell University Owns 4% of Tompkins County Land, May Allow Drilling

The Cornell Daily Sun (Feb 16)
University Denies Conflict of Interest

In an article about a potential conflict of interest for the Chairman of the Cornell Board of Trustees, Peter Meinig, we learn that Cornell is a major landowner in Tompkins County, NY, with some 11,000 acres—which is 4% of the land in the county. They also control the mineral rights to some 420,000 acres across the country, no doubt donated to the university by wealthy benefactors.

The question is, will Cornell decide to lease it’s land? No one knows. The Board of Trustees and the President have decided to wait on making any decisions about leasing until the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation finalizes the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement—the set of rules that will be used for all Marcellus drilling operations in the state.

The controversy is this: Mr. Meinig is the previous chairman of Williams Companies, a huge natural gas company that transports 12% of all natural gas in the U.S. Detractors say there is a built-in conflict of interest with Mr. Meinig voting or advising on the issue, even though he has no shares in Williams now. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Seems to Marcellus Drilling News that having an expert on the board advising the board, as long as there truly is no conflict of interest, would be a good thing.