Consol Energy on Tuesday released details of its plan to drill for natural gas at 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 the spring and drilling later in the year.
Consol, which is based outside of Pittsburgh, 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, said 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.