Consol unveils drilling plans for Pittsburgh airport

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PITTSBURGH – Consol Energy released details Aug. 27 of its plan to drill for natural gas at the Pittsburgh International Airport, a deal officials hope will yield hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties.


The company said that it hopes to begin constructing well sites and pipelines in spring 2014, and drilling later in the year. Consol, which is based in Southpointe, plans to use six well pads to drill a total of 47 Marcellus Shale wells spread out over roughly 9,000 acres of airport land. The company hopes to have the first wells producing gas by 2015.


“This project represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to generate significant economic benefits for the residents of Allegheny County,” Consol president Nicholas J. DeIuliis said in a statement. “We intend to make it a flagship for the region that everyone can be proud of.”


There may be benefits for the airport and the region, but residents who live near the proposed drilling sites expressed concern at a public meeting held Tuesday at a nearby hotel.


“We hope for the best, but have to prepare for the worst,” said John Walters, who lives in the nearby Imperial community with his wife, Marilyn. She fears that drilling will depreciate the value of their property, and said her neighbors are also worried about noise and pollution.


“Right now, I’m dubious” about drilling, added Barbara Leary, 73, who has lived in nearby Coraopolis for 43 years.


In February, the Allegheny County Airport Authority approved the deal with Consol, which paid a signing bonus of $50 million. Officials hope royalties will total $450 million over the next 20 years. Under current Federal Aviation Administration rules, that money would have to go to airport-related use, but local officials hope the rule can be modified.


Allegheny County Chief Executive Rich Fitzgerald calls the plan “a huge public works project” and said revenues from the drilling will benefit taxpayers and the airport and lead to additional jobs and growth for the region. The gas-rich Marcellus extends below parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland and New York.


Consol said it won’t need to build new roads, but the project will require about 17 miles of new pipeline to deliver the gas to market.


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