County enters into contract to have gas extracted from under trail

December 20, 2012

The Washington County commissioners have entered into a lease with Range Resources to give the natural gas drilling company access to 358 acres under the 17-mile Panhandle Trail in exchange for $2,500 per acre and an 18 percent royalty.

The lease includes no surface drilling rights, which means there will be no Range Resources operations on the trail or its rights of way, said Scott Fergus, county director of administration.

“It won’t affect the trail at all,” Fergus told the commissioners Wednesday.

The commissioners’ voted on the matter Thursday at their last meeting of the year.

The rails-to-trails conversion runs in Washington County from McDonald through Midway and Burgettstown to Hanover Township and the West Virginia boundary.

The commissioners also agreed to advertise for proposals from engineering firms to update the comprehensive recreation, park and open space plan and master plans for Mingo and Cross Creek county parks. Costs associated with the plans will be paid with oil and gas proceeds.

In a related matter, Solictor J. Lynn DeHaven reported the county had received its first royalty check, between $40,000 and $50,000, from Range Resources for gas extracted from beneath the Washington County fairgrounds. The county owns the surface, which it leases to the Washington County Fair Board for $1 per year.

There are 110 acres in that drilling unit. In response to a question at Wednesday’s agenda meeting from Tim Kimmel, Washington County Health Center administrator, DeHaven said Range Resources can extract natural gas from under the health center, but not from the same well site.

The well pad is on the Yankovic property, near the Arden landfill, and the county’s contract with Range Resources in the area, like the proposed lease for the Panhandle Trail property, includes no surface rights.

In November 2011, the commissioners entered into a lease with Range Resources to give the company access to the Marcellus Shale natural gas under 13 parcels in the Arden area, including the fairgrounds.

The 327 acres includes land in both Chartiers and South Strabane townships.

Barbara S. Miller covers politics, Washington County government and a variety of other topics for the Observer-Reporter. She is a graduate of Washington & Jefferson College, majoring in English and history. Follow her on Twitter @reporterbarb.

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