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Allegheny County parks drilling deal would generate millions, exec says

| Friday, Nov. 8, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Allegheny County Council members said on Thursday it is too soon to disclose how much revenue drilling for natural gas under Deer Lakes Park would generate, but an executive with a firm seeking to drill said a deal would be worth “millions of dollars” to the county.

“We're talking about a significant amount of money, and that's all I can say,” said council Vice President Nick Futules, D-Oakmont, chairman of the parks committee.

The county received one proposal, from a joint venture by Range Resources and Huntley & Huntley, to drill beneath the park in West Deer and Frazer, according to several council members whom county Executive Rich Fitzgerald briefed.

Fitzgerald would not confirm the lone proposal, saying his meetings on Wednesday were confidential.

Councilman John Palmiere, D-Baldwin Township, declined to comment on revenue projections, calling them speculative.

“My thought is, I'm still not sure it's worth it,” said Councilwoman Barbara Daly Danko, D-Regent Square, who proposed a three-year moratorium on drilling on county land.

Michael Hillebrand, executive vice president of Huntley & Huntley, confirmed his firm submitted a proposal. Huntley & Huntley holds mineral rights on 23,500 acres in the four townships surrounding the park, he said. He would not disclose a monetary figure because negotiations with the county have not begun.

“It's worth millions and millions of dollars,” Hillebrand said. “It would be criminal not to even enter into the dialogue.”

Huntley & Huntley and Range Resources intend to drill around the park regardless of whether the county allows drilling under the land, Hillebrand said.

Hillebrand said being the lone candidate will not affect how his firm approaches negotiations with the county.

Fitzgerald has not released information on proposals, which were due on Oct. 25, claiming it would hurt the county's negotiating position.

Aaron Aupperlee is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7986 or aaupperlee@tribweb.com.

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