Franklin Park rejects request to allow gas extraction from under recreation area
After weeks of public debate over the potential benefits and possible risks of signing a lease to allow an energy company to extract Marcellus Shale gas from a mile below a Franklin Park recreation area, council rejected the proposal.
Nearly two dozen borough residents commented at Wednesday night’s council meeting before officials voted 4-2 against awarding PennEnergy Resources a five-year lease to extract shale gas from the park.
Councilmen James Hogg, James Lawrence, John Parks and Luke Myslinski voted against awarding the lease. Council members Thomas Schwartzmier and Laura Coombs voted in favor of entering into the agreement.
Many of the residents who spoke for or against the proposal reiterated comments made during a previous public meeting, including a special session held on Monday in which borough officials outlined the proposal.
More than 250 people, including residents and organized anti-fracking activists, packed into the Jan. 14 session at the Blueberry Hill Park activity center. A tally by the borough recorded 46 residents who were against allowing drilling and 11 residents in support. Only borough residents are permitted to speak at meetings.
The proposed agreement with PennEnergy called for an upfront payment to the borough of $283,500 plus an a 18-percent royalty on the value of any gas that is extracted in exchange for allowing gas to be extracted from below the 81-acre park.
PennEnergy already has agreements with 70 private property owners surrounding and near Linbrook Park to extract gas from underneath about 730 acres of their property.
The company plans to place the well head and surface drilling operations about 3/4 a mile away in Economy, Beaver County. To get the gas out of the ground, crews will bore down between 5,000 and 9,000 feet and then send 18 lateral lines out about 10,000 feet into the shale rock and use a process called hydraulic fracturing to send it to the well head.
The company says it has the technology to bypass the gas in Linbrook Park and extract it from the surrounding properties.
The lease — and Franklin Park regulations —prohibit any surface drilling operations in that area of the borough, which means no well pads, drilling equipment, storage or personnel will be permitted on the property.
Many of the comments from people against the proposed lease expressed a general contempt for fracking because they believe it is a risk to health and the environment. Some cited the possibility that allowing fracking in the park would create a negative image for the borough.
Supporters of the lease, though significantly fewer in number, noted that since gas is already going to be extracted from around the park, it makes no financial sense for the borough to simply skip getting its share of the revenue to pay for improvements and other expenses.
Tony LaRussa is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tony at 724-772-6368 or firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @TonyLaRussaTrib.
Tony LaRussa is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tony at 724-772-6368, email@example.com or via Twitter .