FAA: Drilling Deal At Pittsburgh Airport Won't Have Significant Effect On Environment

March 28, 2014
Drilling for natural gas on land at Pittsburgh International Airport won't have a significant impact on the environment, Federal Aviation Administration officials

March 27--FINDLAY TWP. -- Drilling for natural gas on land at Pittsburgh International Airport won't have a significant impact on the environment, Federal Aviation Administration officials said Thursday.

"The FAA has completed its review of the Oil and Gas Drilling at Pittsburgh International Airport Environmental Assessment, (and) based on the information and analysis presented in the (assessment), the agency found that the project would not create any significant environmental impacts. As a result, the FAA issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI)/Record of Decision (ROD) on March 25," an FAA spokeswoman said.

The environmental assessment, required by the FAA and submitted to the agency Nov. 18, studied potential effects from natural gas drilling around the Findlay and Moon townships site, such as air quality, noise and light emissions and visual effects, as well as ways to mitigate them.

The FAA -- along with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Federal Highway Administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers -- also approved Consol Energy's environmental assessment regarding its plan to drill on 9,200 acres of airport-owned land, officials said.

The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 requires federal agencies to study and publicly disclose potential environmental impacts of proposed projects, FAA officials said.

Consol officials called the approval of the assessment "another significant hurdle" in bringing the drilling deal to fruition.

"Approval of the (environmental assessment) by a broad range of federal agencies speaks to the care we have taken to design a first-class project that we intend to make a flagship effort for the region," Consol Energy President Nick DeIuliis said.

"The economics of this project are already having a positive impact on Pittsburgh International Airport's competitiveness in a hyper-competitive market, and we are excited to bring forward more value as the project progresses to the benefit of the entire regional economy."

Local elected officials also touted the deal and its potential impacts on the region.

"I applaud the welcomed news and commend the tremendous efforts of all involved," said U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-18, Upper St. Clair Township. "This project represents the most significant economic development effort undertaken at Pittsburgh International Airport in decades, bringing with it much-needed jobs and opportunity to the region. It stands to serve as a model for the nation in safely developing resources to drive economic growth."

"This project will revitalize the Pittsburgh area economy, provide more domestic clean energy and increase investment in our infrastructure," said U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-9, Hollidaysburg. "I am thrilled the (environmental assessment) has been completed and the project is moving forward. This is a great example of why public-private partnerships are so important in contributing to greater economic vitality and are a key piece of our economic and infrastructure planning."

There were other environmental measures taken regarding the deal.

In January, the Allegheny County Health Department announced it would begin an air monitoring study at a single monitoring station in the Imperial Pointe development in Findlay, the closest neighborhood to drilling.

Consol's two-year deal to drill on airport land has already paid big. The oil and gas company has paid the Allegheny County Airport Authority $50 million in the form of a signing bonus and will pay 18 percent royalties over the life of the deal, also to the airport authority. Officials also said Consol plans to spend nearly $500 million on the deal, while more than $1 billion in capital will be injected into the region over the life of the project.

The project plans include six well pads, three water impoundments -- containing freshwater, brine and fracking wastewater -- 17 miles of gas lines and 12 miles of water lines, as well as 45 Marcellus shale wells and the possibility of 15 additional wells drilled into the Upper Devonian layer.

The construction of well sites, impoundments and pipeline is expected to begin in the spring, officials have said, while drilling is slated for July. The construction and drilling phases for all the well pads in the project is expected to be completed in August 2018, they said.

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