City of Murrysville looking to lease Marcellus, Utica shale under community park

The Murrysville Community Park sits on 305 acres. There’s a playground, ball fields, soccer fields, and a walking path.

But it’s something underneath the ground that the city is looking to lease, and if they do, it could bring in more than $1.5 million dollars.

Michael Nestico, Murrysville’s Chief Administrator, said the city is asking for bids from oil and gas companies to see if leasing the rights to the Marcellus and Utica shale under the Murrysville Community Park is something the city should do.

“It’s an interesting opportunity and we’re exploring how we might be able to go about leasing out the gas rights,” Nestico said.

Right now, the city has one bid from Washington County-based Olymus Energy. They offered to pay $1.5 million dollars upfront, and then 18-percent in royalties in any gas obtained from under the park -- and then sold.

Nestico said the money would be put to good use.

“[It would] contribute to some of our park programming and improvements, provide some relief in other areas of our annual budget,” Nestico said.

There wouldn’t be a well or a drill site on the park grounds. This would be drilled underground from the nearby Olympus Energy Titan well pad.

But Nestico said there are some people in Murrysville concerned about environmental impacts.

Some point to Allegheny County banning fracking in county parks last year.

The city said it’s considering everything.

“So, it is a difficult balancing act, because if we don’t take advantage and lease out our subsurface rights, that environmental impact is still going to exist one way or another,” Nestico said.

Channel 11′s Andrew Havraenk spoke with some people enjoying the day at the park Thursday afternoon for their input -- they were mostly in favor of the city leasing the rights.

“I think it’s a good idea because they could use the funds to pay for the park without raising our taxes,” said Jon Opland. “This is a big beautiful park but it’s got to be paid somehow to upkeep it, so I think it’s a good idea.”

“I think it’s a good idea if it affects the community in a positive way, as long as it’s safe and environmentally friendly,” said Jordan Sukay.

The city is also looking to get bids to lease the rights under Duff Park. That could bring in more than $500,000 dollars plus royalties.

The city of Murrysville will decide in the next few months whether or not to enter into these leases.

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