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Questions about mineral rights halt Armstrong land sale

| Friday, July 4, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Armstrong County Commissioners halted the sale of a 34.83-acre piece of property along Route 85 in Rayburn because it could not be determined if the county would retain its mineral rights if sold.

The board unanimously rejected an $80,000 bid from Glade Park Gas in Kittanning for the property on Thursday.

“It's nothing that the gas company did. I just don't think we're ready to move forward on the sale,” Chairman Dave Battaglia said.

The property has an appraised value of $62,984, and Glade Park was the sole bidder.

Commissioner Rich Fink said the county would not consider selling the property to anyone until officials determine who owns the mineral rights, especially access to Marcellus shale.

“To be fair to our taxpayers, we feel if we have any rights to the gas fields, we need to maintain the property,” Fink said. “Right now, we don't know who would get those rights.”

Currently, Eastern American Energy Corporation of Charleston, W.Va., leases the shallow mineral rights and has one well on the property, said Jeanne Englert, director of the Armstrong County Tax Claims Bureau.

The company has held the lease since 2010, but the property's deep minerals remain untapped, she said.

The county is waiting on a report from Indiana attorney Michael Delaney, who specializes in mineral rights, that will determine whether mineral rights would go to the new owner if the property is sold.

Battaglia said the county may attempt to sell the property if it can maintain the mineral rights.

“For now, we don't want to string Glade Park along,” Battaglia said. “Rejecting the bid is the right thing to do.”

Terry McMaster, a land agent for Glade Park, said he was disappointed with the commissioners' decision.

“If we were going to purchase it, we'd want to purchase everything — the land and mineral rights,” McMaster said. “We'd have to see what they're trying to sell before bidding again.”

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1337, or bpedersen@tribweb.com.

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