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County Council To Vote On Airport Drilling Contract

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A major vote is set Tuesday night at Allegheny County Council.

Members must decide whether to approve a deal to lease out land at Pittsburgh International Airport for Marcellus shale natural gas drilling.

Passage seems likely, but about a dozen people have signed up to speak in opposition of the deal.

The deal promises about $500 million in royalties over the next 20 years, to drill on more than 9,000 acres of unused airport land. But environmentalist and drilling opponents are dug in against it.

The county has tabbed Consol Energy and the amount of money involved in staggering. County executive Rich Fitzgerald calls it a no-brainer.

"For us to get $500 million plus another $500 million in development -- a billion-dollar deal," he said. "Without any taxpayer money going into it. This is an opportunity that would be sorely missed if we passed it up."

Monday night at an open house in Findlay Township, hundreds of people showed up to learn about the deal and more about the process of shale drilling.

"People want to become educated," Fitzgerald said. "They want to learn about the process and see what's involved."

But some people, like Eric Dobrowski had already made up their minds.

"These politicians, whether Republican or Democrat, all they're concerned about is getting the money," Dobrowski said. "This is going to pollute the air, the water. Not one of them is concerns about our health."

While drilling has been in the counties south and north of Allegheny – the airport drilling would be the largest operation here by far.

Consol plans 50 wells and the construction of about $500 million in pipelines and other infrastructure. And that's not sitting well with some people, like Dobrowski.

"Drill anywhere you like but not around here," he said.

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