Allegheny County Council OKs vote on Deer Lakes drilling

County leaders will decide Tuesday on drilling under park

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Members of Allegheny County Council will decide next week whether to allow nonsurface gas drilling to take place beneath Deer Lakes Park.

Their vote will come less than two months after county Executive Rich Fitzgerald unveiled the proposed deal with Range Resources to drill beneath the county-owned park in Frazer and West Deer, and following many hours of public comment and discussion in meetings of council's parks committee.

The final meeting of the parks committee -- set to discuss economic factors -- came to a quick conclusion Wednesday night, with committee members voting 4-1 to amend the proposed Deer Lakes Park ordinance, and then voting again 4-1 to recommend the amended ordinance to the full council, less than an hour after the meeting began.

Both times, it was Michael Finnerty, D-Scott, Bob Macey, D-West Mifflin, Jim Ellenbogen, D-Banksville and Nicholas Futules, D-Oakmont, voting in favor, with Sue Means, R-Bethel Park, voting against.

The amended ordinance that council will consider was sponsored by council President John DeFazio, D-Shaler. Compared to the original ordinance, the amended one contains additional details from the lease, such as water testing requirements, roadway restrictions, noise and lighting regulations, and details on the payments Range must make to the county, which will total $4.7 million in bonus payments, $3 million in a parks improvement fund and 18 percent in royalties.

The ordinance also makes clear that council is considering leasing the Deer Lakes oil and gas rights, rather than mineral rights, and removes Huntley & Huntley from the wording, because the Monroeville company is Range's partner in the project but will not be running operations.

"This is making this ordinance, I think, a better ordinance, and it certainly will be satisfying many people's concerns," Mr. Macey said.

Ms. Means, however, said she still had concerns, saying she believed the entire lease should be attached to the ordinance.

She, as well as Councilwoman Barbara Daly Danko, D-Regent Square, both expressed frustration that the vote had been taken early in the economic factors meeting.

Prior to the committee vote, council members heard from Dennis Davin, the county's director of economic development, who spoke about the positive economic impacts of shale development in Western Pennsylvania, and from Keith Mangini, the Huntley president.

He showed a map of the region around Deer Lakes Park, including five proposed wells extending under the park from a well pad on a neighboring property owned by Ken and Chris Gulick of Frazer.

Pending council's leasing approval, he said, the plan was to start drilling in 2014 and for production to start in early 2015. He said $51 million was his conservative estimate for how much the county could expect in royalties from the Deer Lakes lease.

Council will meet at 5 p.m. Tuesday in the Gold Room of the Allegheny County Courthouse to consider the Deer Lake Park ordinance.

Ms. Means plans to hold her own informational meeting, featuring a panel of invited speakers, about the Deer Lakes Park proposal at 5 p.m. tonight, also in the Gold Room. Meanwhile, Range Resources is hosting an open house from 5 to 8 p.m. tonight at the West Deer Volunteer Fire Department 1, 1520 Saxonburg Blvd.


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

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