The week that was: Wet gold! Beneath the airport!

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Up in the Air, Part I

Wet gold! Tarmac tea!

Natural gas, that is. Beneath the airport. How much is it worth? Consol Energy Inc., Pittsburgh International Airport and Allegheny County set the value at $500 million, and last week the parties announced a deal that gives Consol the rights to drill for natural gas beneath the airport acreage in western Allegheny County for the next 20 years.

Consol is also expected to make an additional $500 million in structural improvements to the land, meaning the value of the deal could hit $1 billion.

Up in the Air, Part II

It's been a busy week in Findlay. Just days before the Consol announcement, the Post-Gazette reported that the executive director of the Allegheny County Airport Authority, Bradley D. Penrod, had been demoted as part of an executive-level shake-up. Mr. Penrod's new title is president and chief strategy officer, and Jim Gill, the authority's chief financial officer, will become executive vice president. Meanwhile, the authority is now looking for a CEO whose "primary focus" will be recruiting new routes and airlines.

Up in the Air, Part III

Best time to buy airline tickets? For domestic flights, it's seven weeks -- exactly 49 days -- in advance, according to airfare comparison site Best time to buy tickets for an international flight? You'll have to visit and read the rest of Patricia Sabatini's story to find out.

Up in the Air, Part IV

It's an uncertain future for "Penny," the Pennsylvania Lottery's new advertising spokeswoman. She replaced "Gus the Groundhog," the spokesmarmot who pitched lottery tickets for eight years. But with Gov. Tom Corbett aiming to privatize the lottery, the future of the lottery's longtime contractual tie to Station Square ad agency Marc USA is also in question.

Up in the Air, Part V

Will we get Saturday mail? Hard to know for certain, but we know this much -- the U.S. Postal Service continues to lose money. On Friday, two days after announcing it would eliminate Saturday delivery of first-class mail this summer, the USPS said it lost $1.3 billion during the last three months of 2012 -- typically the agency's strongest quarter, thanks to holiday packages.

Quote of the week

"Our hospitals are full, but the revenues are flattening."

-- Robert DeMichiei, UPMC's chief financial officer, at a quarterly financial briefing last week. UPMC's operating income fell to $85 million for the last six months of 2012, a drop from the $220 million it took in for the same period in 2011. He blamed reduced reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid and utilization pressure from health insurers.


Bill Toland: or 412-263-2625.


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