Murrysville council passes ordinance to take bids for gas drilling under park

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Murrysville council last night passed an ordinance authorizing the administration to begin to prepare bid specifications for leasing the subsurface gas and oil rights to permit drilling beneath Murrysville Community Park.

The ordinance prohibits any surface activity within the park, requiring drilling operations to access gas deposits laterally.

According to municipal solicitor George Kotjarapoglus, while the ordinance will open the door to competitive bidding, it also allows residents opposed to the drilling to petition Westmoreland County to place a referendum question on the ballot in the fall. The municipal home rule charter permits the appeal of council’s legislative acts by ballot referendum. According to Westmoreland County Election Bureau rules, residents will have a 45-day window to gather signatures supporting a referendum.

In January, Chief administrator Jim Morrison announced that the municipality had received a proposal from Huntley and Huntley Energy Exploration of Monroeville to drill under the 260-acre park. Huntley and Huntley offered to pay $2,250 per acre for the subsurface mineral rights along with 12% of the profits annually. The company already owns land abutting the park along Evans Road, including 93 acres of the Caywood property. The ordinance will open the bidding to all interested parties.

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