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Fracking Under Deer Lakes Park Is A Go, So What Happens Next?

Courtesy of Range Resources

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald has signed an ordinance allowing hydraulic fracturing to occur underneath Deer Lakes Park.

Matt Pitzarella, spokesman for Range Resources, the company tasked with the drilling, said lawyers from the county and Range are still working out some technical details of the lease, but that it will be finalized soon.

Pitzarella said the next step is a regulatory planning process, which can take a few months. When it comes to new wells, there is also an internal planning process that can take several years. However, Pitzarella said that because Range is already active in the area, much of the internal planning has already been done.

“We have 20 wells that are identical to the wells we would run under the park in the immediate area around that park,” Pitzarella said.

Once the regulatory planning and permitting process is complete, the actual construction of the well pad and what Pitzarella calls the “facility” can take place, followed by the drilling itself.

“It’s a series of above-ground pipes and well heads and storage tanks that would all be associated with these wells,” Pitzarella said. “That’s roughly the size of a Starbucks coffee shop, and then the pad itself … (is) about the size of a parking lot.”

Construction of the “facility” and drilling can take anywhere from eight to 12 months. Once that process is complete, gas will begin flowing out of the earth, and money into county coffers.  

Pitzarella said the wells themselves will be located a little more than half a mile from Deer Lakes Park, on private farmland.

“It would allow us to run the well bores down about a mile and a half and then they would stretch off into different directions like spokes from a wheel and it would go underneath the park, and that can stretch out several thousands of feet,” he said.

Pitzarella said the pipelines through which the gas flows are owned by “midstream” companies, like Columbia Gas, Equitable Gas or Mark West Energy Partners.

“They own the train tracks, and they will run those tracks near where our products come from … only instead of a track it’s a pipeline, and we then send our gas to their pipelines,” Pitzarella said.

Once the gas starts flowing, Pitzarella said the wells will likely be in operation for at least 30 years, possibly much longer, and that most of the activity will occur in the first eight years. He said the company expects “huge volumes” of natural gas to come from underneath Deer Lakes Park, enough to heat tens of thousands of homes on a daily basis.

Liz Reid began working at WESA in 2013 as a general assignment reporter and weekend host. Since then, she’s worked as the Morning Edition producer, health & science reporter and as an editor.
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