Share This Page

Deer Lakes School District considers allowing natural gas drilling on property

| Tuesday, April 29, 2014, 11:18 p.m.

Drilling for natural gas under Deer Lakes School District property may hinge on whether Allegheny County allows drilling under Deer Lakes Park.

The cash-strapped district is waiting for Allegheny County Council to decide whether to allow energy companies Range Resources and Huntley & Huntley to drill under the 1,180-acre park in West Deer and Frazer before making its decision, school board members said Tuesday.

County Council could vote next month. The district's high school is a mile west of Deer Lakes Park's western boundary.

“It has to start there,” school board Vice President Jodi L. Banyas-Galecki said. “Otherwise, there is no sense talking about it.”

Range Resources and Huntley & Huntley, which have leased about 40,000 acres in the region, want to drill five wells stretching across the northern half of the park from a well pad about 800 feet from the park's eastern boundary. Well pads reaching away from the park are already permitted.

The Deer Lakes School District owns about 100 acres and serves nearly 2,000 students in East Deer, West Deer and Frazer, according to the district's website. School officials have predicted the district will be broke in four years. The board last week cut elementary school guidance counselors and some courses.

Board member Clara Salvi said Huntley & Huntley presented board members with information about the company and hydraulic fracturing before a meeting in March but did not talk about leasing district land.

Huntley & Huntley and district Superintendent Janet R. Ciramella declined to comment.

The Butler Area, Seneca Valley and South Butler school districts have leased land for natural gas development. The Mars Area School Board last month rejected an offer from State College-based Rex Energy.

Huntley & Huntley and Rock Ferrone, owner of the Rock Airport south of the park, have talked about leasing the airport's 253 acres. No agreement is in place, said Ferrone and Michael Hillebrand, executive vice president of Huntley & Huntley, but Ferrone favors drilling and hopes gas revenue could help pull the airport out of bankruptcy. Wells from the airport's pad could reach into the southern part of the park, he said.

“We're literally next door,” Ferrone said. “If we're getting revenues, why shouldn't the county?”

Range Resources and Huntley & Huntley have refused to disclose the locations of additional well pads that could reach under the park.

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

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.