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Natural gas drilling proposal for Harmar land to be presented

Two energy companies want to strike a deal with Harmar for Marcellus shale natural gas, but if a contract is reached, it could be years before any extraction.

Huntley & Huntley, working with Range Resources, has proposed a subsurface lease for about 90 acres of township land, including the municipal building along Freeport Road and the athletic field behind it.

“It’s in an area where we think there’s good prospects for developing the gas,” said Paul Burke, vice president and general counsel for Huntley & Huntley.

Representatives are scheduled to present their proposal to township supervisors during a public meeting Thursday.

If approved, there will be no drilling on township land, Burke said. Surface equipment would be located on private property, extending into the Marcellus shale about 7,000 feet, or more than a mile, below the surface.

Exactly where surface equipment would be located has not been determined. Burke said he doesn’t know if it would be inside or outside of Harmar.

In Harmar, such unconventional wells are permitted in the township’s C-3 zoning area as a conditional use, Township Secretary Donna Piper said. That area covers land north of Route 28 and west of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, with a western boundary extending north from around the Route 28 northbound off-ramp.

Topography, access and setback requirements will play a role in where surface equipment would be, Burke said. According to the Marcellus Shale Coalition, the average range of underground drilling is 4,000 to 5,000 feet.

Burke said the companies’ plans are not set, and that drilling could be “a couple years down the road.”

“We’re just in the process of leasing,” Burke said. “We haven’t filed any applications or permits.”

Related: State drilling panel reviews proposals as deadline nears

If Harmar approves, the company is proposing a payment of $3,500 per acre, plus a 15 percent royalty, Burke said.

How much the township would get is among the details that may be negotiated further, Piper said.

The township is unlikely to sign a lease as presented, and there are outstanding questions to be answered. That means supervisors are unlikely to act on a lease at the meeting, she said.

“The board has not met with Huntley & Huntley yet. All (the supervisors) have is the written lease presented to them,” she said. “If the board is willing to lease the property to a gas company, I would assume they are going to negotiate this lease.”

Harmar native Kyle Patterson left the township about nine years ago and now lives in the Greenfield area of Pittsburgh. He has family and friends in Harmar and worries how Marcellus gas drilling could affect them.

“I want it as far away from my family as possible,” he said. “We are watching what they’re doing and we are paying attention. The taxpaying citizens of Harmar Township do get a say in what happens to their homes. I’d like to see a democratic process take place.”

Piper said the presentation will allow supervisors to hear from Huntley & Huntley and ask questions. Although the supervisors’ meeting begins at 7 p.m., the presentation is scheduled for 7:45 p.m., to allow supervisors to get regular monthly business finished.

Piper said there are legal questions to be answered. Chief among them is finding out whether Harmar has rights to the gas, which she said will require a title search.

The township is doing legal research to find out if it is able to make such a deal with the companies, or if it must give an opportunity for others to make proposals.

“There’s just so many ‘ifs,’ ” she said.

If approved, Piper said the township would use proceeds from the lease for park improvements.


This article was written by Brian C. Rittmeyer from The Valley News-Dispatch, Tarentum, Pa. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.