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Drilling questions lobbed in 2nd of 3 meetings regarding Deer Lakes Park

| Wednesday, April 23, 2014, 11:15 p.m.

Allegheny County Councilman Bob Macey wanted to know what would happen if he drank a cup of frack water, the liquid Range Resources uses to break natural gas from rock formations thousands of feet underground.

“You'd get the runs,” said John Applegath, senior vice president for Range Resources' Southern Marcellus Shale Division. “It's salt water.”

“But I'm not going to die,” replied Macey, D-West Mifflin.

Officials from Range Resources answered questions from council members on Wednesday about hydraulic fracturing and a proposal by the Cecil-based energy company and Huntley & Huntley to drill for natural gas under Deer Lakes Park in West Deer and Frazer. More than 99 percent of the solution used to frack wells is water and sand, Applegath said. The rest is additives, including a friction reducer, muriatic acid and other chemicals. Council members were skeptical, probing further about the chemicals used and produced.

Opponents of the proposal to drill have raised concerns about contamination from frack water and the impact drilling under the park would have on the environment. They have criticized the series of committee meetings scheduled to discuss the lease as one-sided and devoid of objective, experts said. Wednesday's Parks Committee meeting was the second of three scheduled on the proposal.

Applegath showed council members where five wells from a well pad about 800 feet from the park boundary on property owned by Ken and Christine Gulick would stretch across the northern half of the park. Three wells stretching away from the park are permitted, and Range Resources will drill them, Applegath said. He would not identify other sites for well pads that could drill under the park because the companies are negotiating leases.

“How can I consider the environmental impact if I don't know where the pad will be?” asked Councilwoman Sue Means, R-Bethel Park. Applegath said Range Resources could return to well pads years after the first wells are drilled and drill more wells under the park. Under a proposed lease for the 1,180-acre park, the county would receive $4.7 million in upfront payments, a $3 million donation to a park improvement fund and 18 percent royalties over the life of the wells. Applegath said the wells could produce for 40 to 50 years and could be worth $50 million to $70 million in royalties.

Aaron Aupperlee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412- 320-7986 or aaupperlee@tribweb.com.

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