Some Allegheny County Council members, startled by headlines showing energy giant Range Resources may be willing to pay nearly $75 million to drill in a county park, wish they had gotten the memo a bit earlier.
In an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that ran Sunday, Range representatives confirmed they have offered Allegheny County $3.5 million up front and as much as $70 million in royalties over the next 30 years to drill under Deer Lakes Park, a 1,180-acre expanse straddling Frazer and West Deer.
The proposal to drill under the park could land on Allegheny County Council's desk by as early as January, a county official said, with half of any royalty revenue going to pad the county's fund balance.
All good news for Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, who has pushed the project as a way to shore up the county parks' aging infrastructure and the county's bottom line. But it was received coolly by some on county council, who think the administration should have given them details on the deal before they read about it in newsprint.
"I find the fact that a member of county council gets more information about a proposed drilling lease from the Post-Gazette than they do from the county executive to be an affront to our role on council," said Councilwoman Barbara Daly Danko, D-Regent Square.
Councilman Bill Robinson, D-Hill District, expects the issue to come up this evening, when Mr. Fitzgerald will give his last quarterly address of the year to council.
But even a council member who supports Mr. Fitzgerald's plans disputes Range's numbers.
Councilman Nick Futules, who chairs the parks committee, said he has heard a lower figure from Mr. Fitzgerald, who has discussed 10-year revenue potentials with him. Still, he's on board with a plan that would devote half the signing bonus to sprucing up Deer Lakes Park, which he says has fallen into disrepair.
"We would do what is necessary to make that park first class. We asked the people up there to give us a wish list. I believe they need new bathrooms -- we're probably going to put up some seriously nice bathrooms."
Mr. Futules said he believes Mr. Fitzgerald could submit a proposal for council's consideration by Jan. 2, although the chief executive's staff believes that's a bit early.
Andrew McGill: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1497.