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Drilling For Natural Gas Now Underway At Airport

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Consol Energy has cut roads through forested lands to reach six pads designed to support 45 wells to extract natural gas under and near the Pittsburgh International Airport.

"As you came today, you realized how vast 9,000 acres really is and how much work can be done here," noted Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald at a gathering at one of the six pads.

"The airport area is ripe for industrial and commercial development," added Findlay Township Supervisor Janet Craig.

Buses brought dignitaries to the site, as Consol starts to drill for high quality natural gas, says CEO Nick DeIuliis.

"It is in the wet gas area, and that puts it basically in the best position of the best natural gas field within the United States," declared DeIuliis.

The first pad to drill is located closest to residents, says DeIullis, in order to reassure that this is safe.

KDKA money editor Jon Delano asked him about safety.

Delano: "Nick, what worries you most about this project?"

DeIuliis: "Our core values -- we obsess over our top two core values, safety and environmental compliance. I don't know if I would use the term worry….We know that the natural gas is here. We know we got the technology to unlock it. Our job is to get at it as safely and compliantly as possible."

Each well represents four hundred jobs with average pay and benefits of $90,000 a year.

And here's another benefit that local officials say will result from this development -- energy independence for the United States, beginning right here in western Pennsylvania.

"When we look at the bad news coming out of the Mideast, we have to understand that many of these terrorist groups -- all of these terrorist groups -- are also funded by OPEC oil riches," said U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, a member of the House Energy Committee.

The county will use royalties from the drilling to upgrade the airport, lower gate fees, and promote economic development on airport property.

"Western Pennsylvania is pretty hilly. The terrain's pretty challenging. You need money to do that, and we can use that shale money to create jobs in this part of the county," noted Fitzgerald.

Although drilling officially begins Monday, extraction of natural gas won't occur until sometime in 2015. At that point, the taxpayers of Allegheny County will get an 18 percent royalty on all the gas that's taken out.

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