Deer Lakes Park drilling meetings continuing

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Tuesday night's meeting of the parks committee to discuss the Deer Lakes Park gas drilling plan was either exceptionally long, or relatively short, depending on how you measure it.

Allegheny County Council's parks committee was continuing a meeting that lasted 6 1/2 hours Wednesday and which was devoted mostly to a presentation by and questions posed to Range Resources representatives. Discussion did not turn to the focus of the meeting -- legal issues -- until late, and not too long before midnight committee chair Nicholas Futules, D-Oakmont, called for a recess.

And so council members returned again Tuesday, with 2 1/2 more hours of legal questions for county solicitor Andrew Szefi, manager William McKain and Beau Beard, an attorney hired by the county to assist in drafting a proposed lease for non-surface extraction of the natural gas beneath the county-owned park.

Council members posed questions Tuesday ranging from what the lease spelled out regarding Range's obligations if water is contaminated to under what conditions the county could terminate the lease.

Councilman Michael Finnerty, D-Scott, reintroduced a question about how royalties are calculated in the lease. Mr. Szefi said that an update had been made to the lease since last week to make more clear how the calculation is made.

"I feel that it is clear now," Mr. Beard said.

The latest version of the lease, with the royalties clarification, was sent by email to council members during the parks meeting.

The lease would allow Range to drill for natural gas beneath the park from well pads based on nearby private property, with the company providing to the county a $4.7 million bonus payment, $3 million to a parks improvement fund and 18 percent in royalty payments.

Council President John DeFazio, an at-large Democrat from Shaler, announced last week that he would introduce an amendment adding some of the protections from the lease into the ordinance council is considering.

He said Tuesday he will introduce the ordinance tonight, when members of council return to the Gold Room at 5 p.m. for what Mr. Futules said could possibly be the final parks committee meeting regarding the Deer Lakes Park plan.

The topic of the meeting will be economic factors, and invited guests include Warren Finkel, director of the county's budget and finance department; Dennis Davin, the county's director of economic development; Mr. McKain; and Mr. Szefi.

Sue Means, R-Bethel Park, plans to hold an informational meeting at 5 p.m. Thursday in the Gold Room about the Deer Lakes Park plan. Invited speakers include John F. Stolz, director of the Center for Environmental Research and Education at Duquesne University; John Smith and Jonathan Kamin, attorneys who represented the municipalities that challenged the state's oil and gas law; Susan Packard LeGros, executive director of the Center for Sustainable Shale Development; Bruce Pitt, chair of the Environmental and Occupational Health Department at the University of Pittsburgh; and Mitchell J. Small, chair of a National Research Council committee regarding shale gas development.

The updated version of the lease was posted to the county website Tuesday night.


Kaitlynn Riely: kriely@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1707.

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