Washington County signs lease to allow gas development underneath county airport

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Washington County Commissioners signed an oil and gas lease with two Marcellus drillers to allow natural gas development under the county’s airport.

The county was one member of a landowner coalition comprised of dozens of property owners and thousands of acres. It leased 136 acres to Range Resources Corp. and EQT Corp. for a bonus payment of $6,400 per acre and an 18.25 percent royalty of gas sales once the companies start producing.

Matt Pitzarella, a spokesman for Range, said all of the airport’s acreage will fall under Range’s development area. He couldn't say when development would begin but noted it’s not on the current schedule.

There will be no drilling, compressor stations or impoundments on airport property, only on adjacent parcels, with horizontal wells stretching underneath the county land.

Washington County Commissioner Larry Maggi said the county has consulted with the Federal Aviation Administration to make sure the lease complies and will submit reports to the agency in the future.

Washington follows the example of Pittsburgh International Airport which signed a blockbuster deal with Consol Energy last year valued at $500 million.

Maggi said Washington County, which has also leased Cross Creek County Park to Range and is seeking bids from companies seeking to develop Mingo Creek County Park, has a lot of experience with oil and gas development.

“I know it’s hot topic in Allegheny County, but we did make sure that the environment and the pristine country charm is protected when we did this lease,” he said.

Anya Litvak: alitvak@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1455.

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