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Drilling foes air concerns about effect on West Mifflin airport area

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Friday, May 3, 2013, 4:36 a.m.
 

Residents concerned about natural gas drilling at the Allegheny County Airport met on Thursday at Mifflin Elementary School in Lincoln Place to discuss the ramifications on the surrounding community.

The meeting was organized by the anti-drilling group Communities United for Rights and Environment, or CURE, in response to an agreement with Allegheny County that allows Consol Energy to extract natural gas at the West Mifflin airport and Pittsburgh International Airport in Findlay Township.

The deal reportedly is worth an estimated $500,000 to the county over a 20-year period.

Consol has indicated it likely will drill only at Pittsburgh International because of development around the West Mifflin airport, according to reports.

Still, the threat of drilling is one Ken Weir of CURE said should be taken seriously.

He said drilling at the county airport would occur within a 1 12-mile radius of the Pittsburgh City school where the meeting was held and within a 2-mile radius of Wilson Christian Academy and CCAC South campus in West Mifflin.

That's too close, in Weir's opinion, because of the theoretical dangers posed by flares and other hazards.

A host of speakers discussed many dangerous mishaps that could occur from drilling and took questions from an audience of more than two dozen.

Environmental activist Lisa Graves-Martucci of Jefferson Hills said she is concerned about blasting related to seismic gas testing that is occurring in her community and in many others in the region.

She said state permitting procedures that allow for blasting are “woefully inadequate” to ensure the safety of residents.

Martucci said she plans to present a letter to Jefferson Hills council next week calling for stronger permitting at the local level.

Anti-drilling activist Anita Barkin of Jefferson Hills said people know enough about the dangers Marcellus shale drilling poses to public health because of toxic chemicals that are used and produced as a by-product.

She said the elderly and young are most at risk from these chemicals, which they consume through food, water and air.

She said lax federal oversight of oil and gas producers allows companies to produce energy without disclosing all of the chemicals they use.

“This industry has managed to get away with a free pass,” Barkin said, but noted that concern is continuing to grow at the grass roots level. “We're seeing a real sea change in the way people are looking at this process.”

Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1966, or eslagle@tribweb.com.

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