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Murrysville Council turns driller away from community park

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By Daveen Rae Kurutz
Wednesday, May 7, 2014, 11:00 p.m.

Murrysville Council will say “no” to a Monroeville-based driller.

Council on Wednesday voted down a measure that would have solicited bids for the Marcellus shale gas rights under Murrysville Community Park. Council also instructed Chief Administrator Jim Morrison to tell Huntley & Huntley that council is not interested in their lease offer.

“Even if you wanted (to lease the gas rights), you don't want that lease,” Councilman Dave Perry said.

Huntley & Huntley had submitted a lease offer to the municipality earlier this year, prompting officials to consider soliciting bids for the gas rights to the 262-acre park along Wiestertown Road. Had council approved the proposal to solicit bids, residents had the option to circulate a petition to put a referendum question regarding the park's gas rights on the November ballot. However, Morrison said there wasn't much interest from residents in pursuing that venture.

About 15 residents in attendance at Wednesday's meeting applauded council when President Joan Kearns asserted that the municipality would not be soliciting any bids for the park's gas rights and would instead focus on updating the municipal drilling ordinance.

But that doesn't mean those rights won't be leased eventually.

“The decisions of this council can always be reversed by a future council,” Kearns said. “Nothing is cast in concrete except the sidewalks out front and this building, hopefully.”

Kearns said she understood that the topic is very sensitive for residents.

“This is an emotional issue for many people, a scary issue for many people. Somewhere along the way, have to cross your fingers and hope that whatever decisions made are the best decision,” Kearns said. “But until the current issues are resolved, ain't nothing going to happen.”

Several residents spoke against allowing fracking in the municipality. A task force has begun reviewing the municipal drilling ordinance, which permits surface drilling in a designated district. However, subsurface drilling can take place anywhere in the municipality if the well pad is built within the designated area.

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