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Park drilling proposal advances in Murrysville

Murrysville officials took the first step this week toward considering a lease of oil and natural gas rights at Murrysville Community Park.

Council unanimously agreed on Wednesday to advertise an ordinance that will seek competitive bids for a lease of sub-surface rights beneath the park along Wiestertown Road.

Council will officially consider seeking bids at a meeting in April, municipal manager Jim Morrison said. That move would allow citizens to begin petitioning for the issue to become a referendum on the November election ballot.

The discussion began after Huntley & Huntley Inc. requested a sub-surface lease of natural gas rights at the park. Council would consider Huntley’s proposal, but it cannot accept a single bid outright and must go through a competitive bidding process.

If approved in April, the ordinance would declare “legislative intent” to grant an oil and gas lease for the park property without surface operating rights.

Officials could reject all bids.

Huntley’s proposal would conduct sub-surface operation for natural gas at the park in conjunction with other, surrounding leases. However, it would not undertake any operations on the surface of Murrysville Community Park, according to municipal documents.

Documents show that council wants to be respectful of different viewpoints.

“Murrysville recognizes that the grant of a gas lease will provide an economic benefit to the municipality,” the ordinance states. “(It) also recognizes that many Murrysville residents are concerned that oil and gas development utilizing a fracking process may be detrimental to the environmental and rural character of the municipality.”

Resident Linda Marts already has started referendum research. She suggested that council work to educate residents about the issue.

“I think there’s a large portion of people who think it’s all about the money,” she said. “I want you all to be brave, not be afraid to be challenged by the gas and oil industry.”

Rossilynne Skena Culgan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6646 or rskena@tribweb.com. ___

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