Range Resources’ drilling plan rests with Pittsburgh council

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Allegheny County Council was scheduled to consider a lucrative deal Tuesday to allow Range Resources of Fort Worth to drill for natural gas beneath a Pittsburgh-area park, from well sites on neighboring private properties.

The council’s decision was not immediately available early Wednesday morning.

County Executive Rich Fitzgerald outlined the proposed deal with Deer Lakes Park at a news conference Monday. He said it includes a $4.7 million bonus for the county, a $3 million donation to a park improvement fund, and 18 percent royalties that he estimates would generate $3 million a year for the county.

The wells could produce natural gas for 30 to 40 years with about half the production occurring in the first eight years, said Range spokesman Matt Pitzarella.

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Critics of the plan are concerned that the drilling process could contaminate nearby groundwater. State regulators and the Obama administration say problems are rare, but there have been cases where local water wells have been impacted, mostly in northeastern Pennsylvania.

More public hearings are planned.

The deal must be approved by the 15-member County Council. The council voted 9-4, with one abstention, to approve a plan a year ago to drill under the county airport.

The drilling would take place more than a mile beneath the surface of the park, located about 15 miles northeast of the city.

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Fitzgerald says Range has agreed to test surface water for 3,500 feet around the drilling sites, which is 1,000 feet more than state standards require. The lease also would require Range to limit truck traffic on school bus routes and to pay for the repaving of the county roads they use.

Range also would hold at least two local job fairs for residents to learn about job opportunities.