Appalachian Basin

*UPDATE* Meeting Shows Big Support for Deer Lakes Park Shale Development

UPDATE (4/9/2014; 9:30pm ET): After publishing this post, EID received an email from the communications manager at PennFuture, Elaine Labalme. The email included this note:

“Because the story and your tweets reference Jeanne Clark’s former position as PennFuture’s spokesperson, we wanted to ensure that you and your readers understand that PennFuture opposes proposals to drill in or under existing state and local parks, including Deer Lakes Park. In the future, we would appreciate you making sure our position is made clear.”

With the vast benefits of developing our domestic shale resources becoming more well-known, environmentalists are increasingly advocating for responsible development over senseless (and baseless) bans. The fact that PennFuture opposes development in Deer Lakes Park should have been explicitly mentioned — which in turn would have made the supportive position of Jeanne Clark, that group’s former communications director, all the more noteworthy.

Original post, April 8, 2014

A plan to develop the Marcellus Shale beneath Deer Lakes Park has been a heated topic of discussion in Pittsburgh over the last few months.  Why it’s a heated discussion is unclear, though – especially since, according to the lease summary, “no drilling activity to extract oil, natural gas and other hydrocarbons shall be conducted anywhere on the surface of Deer Lakes Park.”

Yes, you read that correctly. The only disturbance to the park will be a horizontal lateral that will run under the 1,180 acres of Deer Lakes Park – 7,000 feet below the surface.  Any wells needed to be developed in the area will be on private property, which has already been leased and ready to move forward with development.

At a recent public meeting, Range Resources provided an overview of the company’s plans to develop near Deer Lakes Park including a step by step time frame of the development process. (03:13)

  • Getting the wells permitted and developed takes about two years
  • Before any dirt is moved there will be pre-drilling water tests done in the area
  • Once all permits are in place a well pad will be built
  • A drilling rig will move in to drill the wells (2-4 weeks per well)
  • Hydro fracturing crew will come on site and stimulate the well  (2-3 days per well)

After the overview of the project, the floor was opened up to public comments from many of those involved in the process.  The comments provided were positive overall. For example:

Nancy Mills, Democratic State Committee / Moon Township Planning Commission:

“Subsurface drilling has not been an issue in Moon Township and I am surprised to see that it is here.  Marcellus Shale is a reality and we as residents of our local townships, our county, and our state have an obligation to make sure that the drilling is safe, supervised and regulated. This is best achieved by having the County involved in the process.” (9:20)

Gerry Vaerewyck, West Deer Supervisor:

“When we look this lease the county has been able to set many standards and goes well above and beyond what we expected to see from the state.  We also need repairs to this park, many of the structures in the park at this time should be condemned and demolished. This is a point where we have an opportunity to really improve our park for the citizens in the community.” (10:50)

Ken Gulick, Landowner where proposed Deer Lakes Park wells will be developed:

“As a landowner I can tell you that the decision to lease was not an easy one. We talked to industry representatives, landowners who currently have wells and did extensive investigation on our own regarding industry practices and environmental impacts. After all the research we feel that this development is safe.”  (24:00)

Out of everyone who spoke at informational meeting one person stuck out the most: Jeanne K. Clark.  Clark is an environmental professional and activist.  She is the co-founder of Women for a Healthy Environment, and founded the Environmental Communications Center of Western Pennsylvania, and lastly, for 13 years Clark was the director of communications at PennFuture.  After reading through the litany of green projects she has worked on over the years, Clark told the crowd why she is supportive of the Deer Lakes Park Lease:

“It is with this professional and personal background, as a dyed in the wool environmentalist, I am here to support the lease and development of Deer Lake Park. I believe the lease agreements for this project provide full protections for the park, the people and the communities around the park, this will protect the park.  In my analysis I have relied on science, the law and primary criteria of decision making….. This agreement is a win-win-win-win, it provides advanced environmental protections, major financial benefits and good paying jobs all the while, protecting the park.” (26:45)

The proposed lease would bring in a $4.7 million bonus to the county, along with $3 million for park improvements and 18 percent royalties once the wells begin to produce.  This influx of money will go right into the local municipalities and be spent as needed, which means an upgrade to park infrastructure, all without a single well being developed on park property.

In addition, Marcellus Shale development is helping to improve our region’s air quality. A recent report by the Department of Environmental Protection credited Marcellus shale development for declining air emissions in the region.  County Executive Rich Fitzgerald even stated,

“For the first time every single air monitor in Allegheny County came under the PM 2.5 since the industrial revolution.” (39:51)

(PM 2.5 is a form of particulate matter that has been linked to respiratory health problems.)

Leasing Deer Lakes Park will benefit the environment, make us less reliant on energy imports and give us more access to cleaner burning natural gas right here in southwest Pennsylvania.  Like Jeanne Clark said, this is a win-win-win-win for the county and its residents.


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