Murrysville will bring parks fracking proposal up for vote

Nov. 18—Murrysville council will take a vote next month to determine whether unconventional drilling can take place beneath its two largest public parks.

Council voted unanimously to advertise ordinances that would permit fracking beneath 74 acres of Duff Park and 305 acres of Murrysville Community Park. Both would involve leases with Washington County driller Olympus Energy, which has several wells in Penn Township as well as a fracking well in Murrysville off Bollinger Road.

Olympus officials have offered upfront payments of $2,500 per acre in Duff and $5,000 per acre at MCP — which would mean a cash infusion of $2 million for the municipality — as well as 18% of gross proceeds in future royalties.

Residents attending council's Nov. 15 meeting were opposed to the ordinances.

"There are several houses surrounding Duff Park, and they are all well-based homes (for water)," said Anna Sciulli of Murrysville. "We tried to get Murrysville to run (public) water back there years ago, but it was just not cost-effective. I'm concerned that seismic activity could damage those wells."

Laura Lewis of Murrysville, who has children ages 3 and 5, urged council not to lease either park for fracking.

"This is where my kids play, where we go for soccer, where we walk our dogs," Lewis said. "You would think less of me if I told you I was taking my kids to an industrial site to play. I don't want any industrial activity in our parks."

Murrysville native Thomas Pike said that, according to deeds for Duff Park, Murrysville does not own the oil and gas rights. Municipal solicitor Wes Long said the park is composed of a large number of different properties that have been added to the original parkland over the years, and each deed is unique.

"When some of the land was donated, the deeds do say 'excepting and reserving gas rights,' " Long said. "Some of those pieces do have that language in them. Some of them do not. There are 74.29 acres that Murrysville does own the rights to."

In total, Duff Park is made up of more than 160 acres.

Several residents referenced Allegheny County Council's 2014 vote to lease oil and gas rights below Deer Lakes Park, a decision which eventually led to the council banning fracking on other county park land.

"A group from Duquesne University conducted water quality assessments before and after the fracking process," said Laura Vincenti of Murrysville. "Fracking chemicals were found at the surface. I think we need to take our parks off the market."

Meredith Juchniewicz of Murrysville agreed.

"I have children who are 1 and 4. We really took our time deciding where we want to live, and we fell in love with Murrysville's parks before we even moved here," she said. "I remember going to Deer Lakes Park before and after fracking started, and I wasn't going to let my children play anywhere near the lake. We saw chemical sheen on the water, dead fish, and it's very concerning to think of that happening here."

Council voted unanimously to advertise both ordinances. Councilman Mac McKenna was not present, and Councilwoman Jamie Lee Korns abstained from voting because her husband is an attorney representing Olympus.

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick by email at or via Twitter .