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Group Fighting Against Drilling Contract For Deer Lakes Park

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – One anti-fracking group says drillers are targeting Pennsylvania's county parks.

"We don't want this to happen," said one little girl during a rally today.

That's the message from the men, women and children who belong to the coalition "Protect our Parks." They are strongly opposing an ordinance before the Allegheny County Council that would give County Executive Rich Fitzgerald the right to negotiate a lease with two companies to drill for natural gas under Deer Lakes Park.

"Public parks is public parks," said Mel Packer with "Protect our Parks." "They're held in trust and covenant for the people and they shouldn't be used for private gain or private industry."

Under the plan, the county would lease mineral rights for the nearly 1,200-acre park for operations by Range Resources and a company called Huntley & Huntley. The drilling would not take place on the surface, but horizontal wells would from well pads located on private property surrounding the park.

"Range and Huntley certainly have a long history of violations and contamination of people's water, people's land, devaluation of homes around frack patches," Packer said.

Because of its location and obscurity, members of the coalition believe Deer Lakes is defenseless. But if the plan is approved, they say it's only the beginning of drilling public property.

"There's eight other parks after this one," said John Detwiler with "Protect our Parks." "And there's a lot of the world threatened by fracking, so this is the front lines right now."

Next week, the County Council Parks Committee will hear a proposal from company representatives. A vote on the oridnace is expected sometime in May. In the meantime, the "Protect our Parks" coalition will continue its battle to stop fracking before it gets started in county parks.

"Protect our Parks" has also filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission.

They want Allegheny County Councilman Nick Futules to step down as chairman of the Parks Committee. He has a gas lease with Huntley And Huntley, the same firm that's working on a deal with the county to drill under the park.

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