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Gas companies will talk about drilling in West Deer

| Wednesday, April 30, 2014, 12:36 a.m.

Range Resources and Huntley & Huntley, the Pennsylvania-based energy companies with proposed natural gas operations beneath Deer Lakes Park, will hold an informational open house on Thursday in West Deer.

Officials from both companies, the Drake Well Museum and the Marcellus Shale Coalition will be present to answer questions and provide information about natural gas development in Allegheny County, said Matt Pitzarella, a Range Resources spokesman.

The event, hosted at the West Deer fire hall along Saxonburg Boulevard, is part of an overall outreach that Range Resources has undertaken in the five years it has grown more active in the area, Pitzarella said.

“It's an effort not only to reach out to the individuals who lease with us, but to residents in the nearby area as well,” he said. “It's an opportunity to give people a better idea of who we are, what we do and how we do it.”

Range Resources and Huntley & Huntley, through a joint development agreement, have drilled 109 shallow wells in West Deer and Frazer in the past decade and 19 deep Marcellus wells since 2010, according to company officials.

The companies are negotiating with Allegheny County officials to lease the county's mineral rights at Deer Lakes Park, which straddles West Deer and Frazer.

Thursday's open house, Pitzarella said, was scheduled partly in response to the interest generated by the proposed drilling beneath the park.

Those in favor of the county leasing the park's mineral rights argue that it can't afford to pass up the $4.7 million it would receive up front. The county also would receive 18 percent royalties, which county officials have said could yield $3 million a year for 20 years.

Its detractors argue that the environmental effects, which they say aren't fully researched, can render irrevocable damage to the area and residents' health.

Multiple attempts to reach area residents who have previously expressed opposition to the drilling were unsuccessful.

Thursday's event will be conducted in an open format with different stations to address those particular issues, as well as leasing and operational details, according to Pitzarella. It is one of dozens, he said, that Range Resources and Huntley & Huntley have held in Western Pennsylvania since 1999.

Braden Ashe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4673 or bashe@tribweb.com.

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