The land under Pittsburgh International Airport, already expected to hold hundreds of millions of dollars in natural gas, might be even richer, county officials said Tuesday.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald says preliminary tests by geologists show there's likely more gas than originally expected, a development that could net the county a bigger monthly royalty check once drilling commences.
"They're optimistic at what they're seeing," Mr. Fitzgerald said. "It could be even better than we originally thought."
Consol Energy, which won the bid from the Allegheny County Airport Authority to drill on the property's 9,000 acres, hasn't yet put a hole into the ground, state records show. But county Councilman Nick Futules, D-Oakmont, said company geologists were agog at what their tests were showing.
County council approved the deal in February, accepting a $50 million one-time bonus and the potential for $450 million more in royalty payments over the next two decades. Consol is expected to spend another $500 million or so in infrastructure improvements.
By law, the revenue can be used only to develop the airport and its surrounding land. Mr. Fitzgerald hopes to lower landing fees and jump-start development at airport industrial parks.
The county has also discussed drilling under Deer Lakes Park, a county park in West Deer. Mr. Futules said there's talk of drilling beneath Boyce, Settler's Cabin and Round Hill.
County officials are in the process of issuing requests for bids to drill. Mr. Futules is hoping to add contract provisions requiring the real-time monitoring of park streams and waterways for contamination.
Andrew McGill: email@example.com or 412-263-1497. Anya Litvak contributed.