Mars Area School Board rejects drilling proposal
More than 150 Mars Area School District residents cheered loudly Tuesday night as the nine-member school board voted unanimously to reject Rex Energy's proposal to conduct horizontal drilling for oil and gas underneath district property along Route 228.
“This is not just for today, but forever,” said Amy Nassif of Adams. “The community has spoken. We do not want this type of industry near our children.”
The school board rejected an agreement that would have paid the district just over $1 million for a five-year lease. The pact promised the district about $4,000 an acre for drilling rights about a mile underneath nearly 175 acres of school property.
The $1 million payment included about $330,000 in advance royalties for the rights to drill from a site about 4,000 feet from district property. The district would have received 15 percent of royalties from the drilling.
It was the second time that the board rejected a lease agreement with Rex, the first in 2009.
Rex still plans to develop the well pad site, off Denny Road in Middlesex, that would have been the starting point for the subsurface drilling under district property.
“While disappointed, we respect the school board's decision,” said Mike Endler, Rex Energy spokesman. “We will maintain open communication with the district and other community stakeholders as Rex Energy moves forward with safe, tightly regulated development plans for this project.”
“The Rex lease offers a small financial incentive to the district that cannot possibly justify the potential personal and environmental negative effects,” school board member Christine Valenta said. “Again, we need to be prepared to expect the unexpected. We need to remain focused on doing everything within our power to remain a safe environment for students, staff and community not only for today but for generations to come.”
The school district's rejection means that the Mars Home For Youth won't be able to finalize a separate lease agreement to drill under its property, because school district property is between the youth home and the drill site, Rex officials said.
Board solicitor Tom King said questions remained as to how much of the mineral rights the school district owned on the 175 acres because a full title search hadn't been done. There's also a question of long-term liability from the substances that are used in the extraction process, he said.
The drilling proposal had drawn strong opposition from parents, who cited safety concerns. Nassif presented directors the signatures of about 900 people, collected in person and online, opposing the plan.
The grassroots group Protect Our Children — which is partnering with members of the Marcellus Outreach Butler and Marcellus Outreach Middlesex — said it has concerns about environmental pollution and its effects on children. The groups want a ban on drilling within a mile of the school.
“Thank you, school board. You did the right thing, but we as a community need to take the next step,” said Charles Clark, who has a second-grader attending Mars Elementary.
Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates use big 7th inning to sweep Marlins, stretch winning streak to 6
- Plum teacher held for trial on charges of witness intimidation
- Tweets connect Pittsburghers with the world, each other in 5 words
- Judge orders Highmark, UPMC lawyers to hash out consent decree
- Rossi: Steelers’ tarnished Bell rings true
- Male suspect in custody from New Kensington shooting
- Overturned cement truck knocks out power in South Side Slopes
- Tomlin gives suggestion Steelers won’t be shy about going for 2
- Ferris resigns from Baldwin Council
- Gateway athletes mix it up at state meet
- Vandals ruin Ligonier Township farmers’ garden