County negotiating Mingo Park gas leases

Marcellus Shale drilling expected to expand in Nottingham Township

March 4, 2014
Tilly, a Goldendoodle owned by Dawn Byron of Carroll Township, swims and plays in a creek at Mingo Creek County Park in this June 2012 photo. - Angela Wadding / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

Washington County commissioners are negotiating leases with the Marcellus Shale natural gas industry to allow drilling in Mingo Creek County Park in Nottingham Township, a municipality that also expects the boom to spread in its direction.

Nottingham Township supervisors are expected to adopt a new ordinance in two weeks regulating oil and gas development, as they expect the number of drilling pads to increase in the rural community, said Nottingham Supervisor Douglas S. King.

“This is the up-and-coming place for the gas industry,” King said Tuesday.

Washington County Commissioner Larry Maggi said the county is doing its “due diligence” before approving any leases to drill under the park, after advertising in December for proposals to do so from the gas industry.

“They’re all interested in it,” Maggi said.

He said the county earned $10 million since it permitted drilling at Cross Creek County Park in Avella in 2009 and expects to see greater earnings from the industry at Mingo. A decision from the commissioners on such leases is not expected to be reached this month, Maggi said.

Nottingham supervisors returned to the township drilling ordinance after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in December ruled portions of Act 13 unconstitutional and reaffirmed the right of municipalities to zone drilling operations.

King said the ordinance will increase the distance a well pad must be from a residence from 300 feet to 1,000 feet unless a property owner reaches an agreement with a driller to allow one to be closer to their house.

He said Nottingham and its neighboring municipalities sit above shale containing dry gas that is now in demand, and drillers have been back in the area renewing or signing leases with property owners for the mineral rights.

“Things have picked up,” King said.

The industry is looking for rural drilling opportunities east of Interstate 79, said Matt Pitzarella, spokesman for Range Resources in Southpointe.

“There will be some development, not unlike other areas, but more than what they’ve seen, which has been very little,” Pitzarella said.

Nottingham is currently home to one drilling site, but Range Resources is expected to begin another there in September, King said.

He said supervisors do not expect local opposition to the ordinance and likely will approve it after conducting a hearing on it at 7 p.m. March 17.

Scott Beveridge is a North Charleroi native who has lived most of his life in nearby Rostraver Township. He is a general assignments reporter focusing on investigative journalism and writing stories about the mid-Mon Valley. He has a bachelor's degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master's from Duquesne University. Scott spent three weeks in Vietnam in 2004 as a foreign correspondent under an International Center for Journalists fellowship.

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