No drilling planned yet for West Mifflin airport
By Patrick Cloonan
Published: Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013, 5:06 a.m.
Allegheny County Airport in West Mifflin isn't part of the plan for gas development at Pittsburgh International Airport in Moon Township.
A local expert does not see that changing any time soon.
“The logistics required to prepare well pads and move water, along with pooled royalty agreements, just do not fit the model on this particular property,” said David J. Marks of Pennsylvania Gas Marketing. “Pads need about 7 acres of real estate for the actual rig, support structures and ponds for mud and frack water.”
Still, at a Mon Yough Area Chamber of Commerce event, Allegheny County Councilman Bob Macey, D-West Mifflin, said an agreement with Consol Energy approved on Feb. 8 by Allegheny County Airport Authority and on Feb. 19 by County Council provides for drilling within two years at the West Mifflin airport, or Consol gets $2 million back.
“The money from that portion of the agreement will be put in escrow,” said Amie Downs, spokeswoman for county Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “The authority has indicated in its remarks that it would not be pursuing or talking about the county airport for a year or two, so we have no plans to move forward.”
That $2 million is out of $50 million Consol will pay the county, including an upfront $5,000 per acre bonus and a $3.7 million surface rent payment for well pads. Also, the authority could reap $450 million in royalties over 20 years.
Consol spokeswoman Lynn Seay said she had nothing to add to Downs' comment.
Macey shepherded the agreement through council, where it passed 9-4. Locally, Macey, council vice president Charles Martoni, D-Swissvale, and Councilman John Palmiere, D-Baldwin Township, voted yes, while Councilwoman Barbara Daly Danko, D-Greenfield, voted no.
Marks said a lot must be done at the Moon airport including seismic testing.
“Marcellus drilling rigs are taller than conventional rigs,” Marks said. “There may be some additional planning needed to maintain rigs a safe distance from the runways and air traffic.”
Under Federal Aviation Administration rules, proceeds from mineral development on airport property has to be reinvested there.
Still, Fitzgerald said, taxpayers will benefit from “reducing business costs for airlines and increasing our airport's competitiveness, creating a new source of revenue (and) allowing additional investment in the economic development” of the Moon area.
Marks is to address the impact of gas development on communities around County Airport at a Mon Yough Area Chamber luncheon Wednesday at noon at the Holiday Inn Express in West Mifflin.
Cost is $15. For details call the chamber at 412-678-2450.
Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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