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Large-Scale Marcellus Drilling May Be Coming To East Suburbs Of Allegheny Co.

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- The fairways and greens have gone to seed and the clubhouse is home to raccoons.

What was Churchill Valley Country Club is now a 1,200-acre eyesore, but what lies a mile beneath it could be worth millions.

The Marcellus shale -- it's one of the richest shale gas deposits in the world. And now it appears that EQT wants to drill and frack it.

In the past few months, EQT has solicited residents and business owners in a mile-radius of the abandoned course to sign gas and oil leases that would allow the company to drill under their property.

It would be the first major drilling in Allegheny County's eastern suburbs and it's already dividing residents in Churchill, Wilkins and Penn Hills.

"I think it's good for the region," said Ken Rudolph of Churchill. "It's going to bring jobs in and plus I'm going to get a couple of dollars out of it. I mean, why not?"

"I think it's a bad idea," said Burt Lugar of Churchill. "I think it's going to be too much noise. It's going to disrupt the entire neighborhood."

EQT will not confirm that it has a lease to drill on the golf course -- saying only that it's evaluating parcels in the Churchill-Wilkins area, and the land's current owners refused to comment.

But officials in Wilkins Township say EQT's leasing agent has told them the company is planning to put a 20-acre pad on the country club property with as many as 14 different wells and would like to begin drilling within the next three years.

"I have several different concerns about situating an industrial activity like that in a residential area," said commissioner Michael Boyd.

The township's commissioners are concerned about a large-scale drilling operation in a densely populated area -- and are now considering revisions to it's zoning ordnance.

"We're concerned air pollution, noise, increases in traffic, damage to roads," said Boyd.

For its part, EQT says if or when it drills, it will address community concerns.

"While the development of the Marcellus shale can be accompanied by temporary inconveniences, such as noise and extra traffic, EQT works diligently to address concerns and find solutions when necessary in order to maintain lasting and mutually beneficial partnerships with the communities where we operate," said a statement.

Some are on the fence. Beulah Presbyterian Church is evaluating EQT's request to buy their mineral rights, but others have already made up their mind.

"I think there's better places to do it," said Lugar. "Places that don't have all these houses. You know, there's a lot of children, there's a pool over the hill the kids use all the time. What if something happens?"

If drilling does come to Churchill Valley, abandoned fairways will come alive with earth movers, drilling equipment and frack trucks and all that activity will surely divide the people who live around it.

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