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County council nears tipping point on Deer Lakes Park drilling

| Thursday, May 1, 2014, 11:15 p.m.

Allegheny County Council appears to have more than half the votes needed to permit drilling for natural gas under Deer Lakes Park.

Six council members, including President John DeFazio, D-Shaler, and Vice President Nick Futules, D-Oakmont, told the Tribune-Review on Thursday that they will vote yes or are leaning toward voting yes. Three members said they intend to vote no or are considering voting no.

At least eight council members must approve the proposal for it to pass. Council members will vote at their meeting on Tuesday on a proposal to allow Range Resources and Huntley & Huntley to drill under the park from well pads outside the park's boundary.

DeFazio felt there were at least eight “yes” votes on the 15-member council but stopped short of predicting approval.

“You can't count your chickens before they hatch on this stuff,” he said.

Council members Michael Finnerty of Scott, Charles Martoni of Swissvale and Bob Macey of West Mifflin, all Democrats, said they will vote yes. Councilman Tom Baker, R-Ross, said he is considering voting yes.

Councilwoman Barbara Daly Danko, D-Regent Square, said she will vote no. Councilwoman Jan Rea, R-McCandless, said she is considering voting no. Both believe drilling should not be allowed under park land. Councilman Bill Robinson, D-Hill District, said he would be reluctant to vote for the proposal as is and intends to introduce an amendment at the meeting.

Councilwoman Sue Means, R-Bethel Park, held an informational meeting on Thursday in which professors, lawyers and other professionals presented information on the risks of natural gas drilling. She and several other members remain undecided.

John F. Stolz, a professor and director of the Center for Environmental Research at Duquesne University, said his studies have found ground and surface water contamination potentially related to shale drilling. John Smith, a Canonsburg attorney who successfully challenged Act 13, the state's drilling law, told council they will not know the risk to the park in West Deer and Frazer until they know all the chemicals that will be used and the locations of all well pads.

Councilwoman Amanda Green-Hawkins, D-Stanton Heights, said she will abstain because her husband has business interests in companies involved in the deal.

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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