Pittsburgh's Allegheny County to Experiment with Drilling under Public Parks

Allegheny County officials have embarked on an experiment to allow companies to drill for oil and gas below one of the county's eight parks. Whether operations expand beyond the initial test site remains to be seen.
June 25, 2014, 9am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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"Simply put, Allegheny County has no plans to lease more public parks for oil and gas development," report Anya Litvak and Kaitlynn Riely. But whether or not more drilling in public parks is allowed depends on how initial experiments perform. "County officials said they want to see how drilling fares in Deer Lakes Park before the county entertains bids for more oil and gas plans."

"It was a year ago that Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald formally announced to members of Allegheny County Council that the county would seek bids to drill beneath Deer Lakes Park, a 1,180-acre park that lies in the northern communities of Frazer and West Deer." The deal that emerged allows for "extraction of natural gas from beneath the park through horizontal wells extending from well pads set up outside the park." The driller, Range Resources Corp, "would pay the county a $4.7 million bonus payment, $3 million toward a parks improvement fund, and 18 percent in royalties."

The decision not drill in parks could originate with drillers more than policy makers, however: "In reality, it might be the drillers opting out of future partnerships if they find, as some have said, the remaining eight parks in Allegheny County inhospitable to large-scale oil and gas drilling."

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Published on Tuesday, June 24, 2014 in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
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