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County Executive Race Heats Up Over Natural Gas Drilling

By: Jon Delano
(Photo Credit: KDKA)

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The primary election is less than two weeks away and the battle between the two Democrats for Allegheny County Executive is heating up over the natural gas drilling debate.

Both Mark Flaherty and Rich Fitzgerald say they support drilling.

Flaherty has gone even further to propose a partnership between the county and gas companies. However, Fitzgerald says the idea is too risky for taxpayers.

If you had any doubt that a county executive race was on in Allegheny County, just turn on the television.

With just two weeks before the Democratic Primary, Flaherty and Fitzgerald have run generally positive campaigns about themselves, but that is changing.

Fitzgerald has launched a negative attack on Flaherty for what he is calling a risky Marcellus Shale scheme.

According to one Fitzgerald political ad: “Flaherty wants taxpayers paying gas companies millions to drill on county property and if the wells don’t turn a profit and Flaherty’s scheme fails, the gas companies keep the money and taxpayers are on the hook.”

While Fitzgerald would lease county lands for Marcellus Shale drilling, Flaherty has proposed investing county dollars in the drilling itself in partnership with natural gas companies to get a much larger profit share for taxpayers.

Fitzgerald calls that risky.

“A good percentage of the wells come up as, “dry holes.” It happens all over the place,” said Fitzgerald. “Well, who’s holding the bag here – the county taxpayer.”

But Flaherty defends his plan, saying the profits earned could.

“Set up an Allegheny County fund that reduces taxes for county taxpayers over a 10 to 20 year period and could realize three to four billion dollars,” said Flaherty.

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