Appalachian Basin

Allegheny County Council Rejects “Wait and See” Moratorium

The Allegheny County Council recently voted down a “wait and see” proposal that would have placed a moratorium on further shale development in county parks. If passed, the ordinance would have placed a hold on natural gas exploration and drilling in all parks in Allegheny County, with the exception of the leases already in place in Deer Lakes Park. The idea, according to Protect Our Parks, was to “wait and see” how development goes in Deer Lakes Park first.  The ordinance was soundly rejected, only gaining the support of one county commissioner.

Regarding the ordinance vote, council member and chair of the parks committee, Nicholas Futules stated:

“We make decisions based on each individual opportunity that comes before us. We look at the facts and we make those decisions, voting for a moratorium is more or less avoiding the issues.”

Bob Macey of council district 9 (where shale development is currently taking place) said after he voted against the ordinance,

“I have yet to have someone from my district come to me and say ‘no fracking,’ ‘no drilling,’ please respect my situation, please respect my position and please respect the 96,000 people in my district.”

As the council members agreed, the moratorium would tie their hands for future decisions. And, it’s not as if Deer Lakes Park – or Allegheny County, for that matter – is the first park to host shale development in Southwest Pennsylvania.

Cross Creek County Park

Washington County, Pennsylvania, better known as the “Energy Capital of the East,” is no stranger to shale development, especially when it comes to Cross Creek Park. The park is home to more than 30 Marcellus shale wells all of which utilize less than one percent of the surface area.

Check out the video below for more information:

The Marcellus wells in Cross Creek Park are responsible for bringing millions of dollars directly into the county. According to an Observer Reporter article:

“Nine wells in Cross Creek County Park are projected to bring about $3.1 million in revenue to the county this year, and Commission Chairman Larry Maggi is quick to point out Washington County, at 24.9 mills, has one of the lowest property tax rates in Southwestern Pennsylvania.”

Besides the economic windfall, the park was left better than it had been found. Recently, Range Resources, which operates in Southwest Pennsylvania and worked on the Cross Creek Park project, received a statewide corporate conservation award from the National Wild Turkey Federation for its initiative to establish wildlife habitats in the park last year. Bob Eriksen, a wildlife biologist with the Turkey Federation stated:

“This spot was ideal for us because it was an area that had been disturbed by the drilling operation and would probably have reverted into kind of a weedy field with some invasive vegetation that is not as attractive to wildlife. Our objective and Range’s objective was to leave that site better than they found it originally.”

Range Resources restored two areas of the park, totaling 33 acres, proving that shale development and habitat improvement can co-exist.

It’s clear that the “wait and see” approach is wrong for Allegheny County and the county commissioners know it. Allegheny County is in a situation where it can generate substantial new revenue streams and even improve county parks. If Washington County was able to successfully develop shale beneath their parks, Allegheny County surely can too.

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