Councilman asks Allegheny County to release proposals for Deer Lakes Park drilling

An Allegheny County councilman is asking county Executive Rich Fitzgerald to turn over all the proposals he's received from energy companies to drill for natural gas beneath Deer Lakes Park.

In a letter dated Thursday, Councilman Bill Robinson, D-Hill District, said the records are rightfully council's: The county charter gives council, not the executive, the exclusive power to negotiate contracts on leasing county property, he said.

He also quoted Mr. Fitzgerald's September address to council, when the chief executive told members he would welcome their suggestions on the negotiations.

"I implore you to follow our code and to act in accordance with your own invitation for Council involvement in these very important negotiations," Mr. Robinson wrote.

Mr. Fitzgerald, who said he didn't receive the letter until after media reports had surfaced, disagrees with Mr. Robinson's legal analysis and said he will not open up negotiations between energy companies to the full 15-member council. To do so would surrender the county's competitive advantage in bargaining, he believes.

"We don't negotiate with 16 different people and through the public," he said. "Part of negotiations are give and take, going back and forth. We'll ask for things, they'll ask for things. At the end of the day, it'll obviously all be public."

The county executive is looking to allow drilling for natural gas beneath Deer Lakes Park, a proposition he believes could bring close to a million dollars a year in royalties. Revenue would be used to spruce up both Deer Lakes and other rundown park facilities in the county, he has said.

Last Friday, the county formally closed its request for proposals. Citing previous policy on negotiations, the administration has not released any proposals or revealed how many it has received.

The plan to drill beneath Deer Lakes Park has drawn heavy criticism from anti-drilling residents and some local politicians. County Councilwoman Barbara Daly Danko, D-Regent Square, has proposed a three-year moratorium on drilling underneath county parks, a bill Mr. Robinson recently signed onto as a co-sponsor.

Andrew McGill: or 412-263-1497.

Andrew McGill: or 412-263-1497. First Published October 31, 2013 2:09 PM

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