Allegheny County Council gives approval to drilling in Deer Lakes Park
The Allegheny County Council early Wednesday approved a proposal to drill for natural gas under Deer Lakes Park, clearing the way for drilling to possibly start this year.
Council voted 9-5 at the end of a seven-hour meeting to allow energy companies Range Resources and Huntley & Huntley to extract natural gas buried more than a mile below the 1,180-acre park in West Deer and Frazer.
“It's not a perfect deal, but it's a good deal,” said Councilman Ed Kress, R-Shaler, who cast one of the swing votes and represents the area of Deer Lakes Park. “I'm trying to arrange a future for the people in my district.”
Council members Barbara Daly Danko, D-Regent Square; Heather Heidelbaugh, R-Mt. Lebanon; Sue Means, R-Bethel Park; Jan Rea, R-McCandless, and Bill Robinson, D-Hill District, voted against the proposal. Councilwoman Amanda Green-Hawkins, D-Stanton Heights, abstained.
“This is a short-term gain. To hell with our grandchildren,” Danko said before the vote.
Following the vote, members of the public chanted “shame” and yelled at council members. Council Vice President Nick Futules, D-Oakmont, yelled obscenities back at one member of the audience.
“This battle is only a beginning. We are considering court action following this blatant disregard of the wishes of the county residents,” Protect Our Parks, a coalition organized against the proposal, said in a statement after the vote.
The vote came after more than four hours of public comment on the proposal. Members of Protect Our Parks unrolled a scroll of more than 7,000 signatures — wrapping around the council chambers twice — from county residents opposed to the drilling.
“I think you're not just voting on a specific lease but on a precedent,” said Jules Lobel, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh Law School. “You are setting a precedent that you can use the parks for industrial purposes.”
Under the proposal, Range Resources would drill five wells under the northern portion of the park from a well pad about 800 feet outside the park's boundary on private property owned by Ken and Christine Gulick. The county would receive $4.7 million upfront, a $3 million donation to a parks improvement fund and 18 percent royalties from gas production that could be worth $60 million to $70 million over the life of the wells, according to estimates.
“I really feel that we need to do this project just to prove to people that drilling can be done right,” James Converse, a member of Friends of South Park, said, drawing laughter from a crowd populated with many opponents to the proposal. “We have a tremendous amount of problems in all our parks and the money needs to come from somewhere. Are we going to raise taxes?”
The companies hope to start drilling this year and plan to tap more of the park from additional well pads in the future, officials said during a series of committee meetings on the proposal.
“There are horror stories of families that can't sell their land or can't let their children out to play,” said Russell Fedorka of Elizabeth. “Why can't we protect at least our parks? If you vote to protect the park, you can tell your children that you stood up for the beauty of Deer Lakes Park.”
County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said in a statement that “the county's participation in this lease allows us to further protect our community with additional environmental enhancements while also bringing revenues to our parks. Allegheny County taxpayers benefit by having revenue that doesn't come from our property taxes to invest in our parks and our county.”
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.
- EPA says it won’t reguluate coal ash as hazardous waste
- Pitt’s acting athletic director is deft facilitator
- Position move fits Pitt sophomore Artis
- Steelers notebook: Polamalu, Taylor unlikely to play, Harrison ‘ready’
- Shady Side Academy torments Apollo-Ridge, moves to 3-0
- Real estate union: Howard Hanna buys Langholz Wilson Ellis
- Penn Township man who shot friend gets probation
- DC local roundup: Connellsville boys basketball earns first win of the season
- A-K Valley roundup: Late surge lifts Knoch past Valley
- Hotel building boom sweeps Pittsburgh region
- United Way surplus funds benefit 9 nonprofits in Westmoreland County