Shale gas drilling approved beneath ACORD park

Date: April 7, 2011
Thursday, April 07, 2011
By Dan Majors, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Despite the overwhelming opposition of more than two dozen residents, the Avonworth Municipal Authority tonight gave the go-ahead for Marcellus Shale gas drilling beneath park property along Camp Horne Road.

The authority members, in a 3-2 vote, gave Energy US, which is based Downtown, a five-year lease for drilling rights in the 119-acre ACORD Community Park in Kilbuck and Ohio Township.

The lease still must be approved by four of the five communities that make up the Avonworth Municipal Authority. The Ohio Township council approved the lease at its Monday meeting. The remaining borough meetings will be Tuesday for Ben Avon Heights, Wednesday for Emsworth, April 19 for Ben Avon and April 26 for Kilbuck.

One resident who said he had been involved in gas drilling for years urged the board to take the offer of $2,500 an acre and potential bonuses for production. But all the other speakers were opposed.

While many of the residents voiced concern over the effect of drilling on water quality and property values, others who spoke at the public hearing expressed shock at the manner in which the lease was handled.

Authority board Chairman Ed Gould told board members in an email dated April 1 that Energy US presented him with the lease March 30 and gave him a March 31 deadline to sign it, which he did with the understanding that the lease would be void if it was rejected by the board or by two of the five communities involved.

“I’m deeply concerned about this process,” said Alexander Nalevanko, a member of the Emsworth Council, who called for the lease to be rejected. “Mr. Gould, I believe you have overstepped your authority. I remind the board members that you serve at the pleasure of the communities that put you here. And you can be removed. This is a community park and nothing more. “This is a terrible mistake.”

“This land isn’t going anywhere,” said Michael Bett, a member of the Ben Avon Council. “I don’t know why we have to rush into the first deal that is presented to us. It may be a great deal, I don’t know. But I’d like to know more.”

“This takes this property and this community down a road we’ve never gone before,” said Jane Robinet of Kilbuck. “I was appalled that this was going on and none of us knew about it. I can’t believe that something like this can happen on this big of an issue with this big of an impact.”

Authority solicitor Charles Means said the lease doesn’t guarantee gas drilling or production, but if there is production, the lease automatically extends.

“I feel this is too big of a risk for our community,” said Lisa Cole of Ben Avon. “We want to live here for a long time. We don’t want to be forced out because we can’t drink the water.”

“It’s like putting Neville Island across the street from us,” said Ted Popovich of Ben Avon. “I’m aghast at this process because, in my mind, it hasn’t been proven safe yet.”

Once the public comments ended, the authority members approved the lease without discussion.

Voting for the lease were Mr. Gould, who represents Ben Avon Heights, John Hartle of Ohio Township, and Paul Getz of Emsworth. Laurie Berie of Ben Avon and Don Osterwise of Kilbuck were opposed.

After the vote, Ms. Berie told those at the meeting, “Like all of you, I was clueless [about the lease].” She urged residents who were opposed to take their concerns to their local council meetings.


Dan Majors: or 412-263-1456.
First published on April 7, 2011 at 12:16 pm

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Joe Price
Attorney Joe Price is a seasoned Trial Lawyer serving Northeast, Central and Southeast Pennsylvania for the past forty (40) years. He has handled serious personal injury cases in courts throughout the Federal system including New Jersey and New York. Attorney Price is A.V. Rated by Martindale Hubble. He is Board Certified in Civil Practice by the National Board of Trial Advocacy since 1996.