PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The East Allegheny School district has voted to allow natural gas drilling on school property to raise some much needed funds.

Under the lease agreement, EQT will explore 170 acres owned by the East Allegheny School District for natural gas drilling.

If natural gas is found on the property, the district would receive an up-front payment of more than a half-million dollars.

“Once they get started, the terms of the agreement call for the school district to receive gross proceeds of 17 percent of whatever is being earned by EQT,” said solicitor Daniel Beisler.

The district’s property sits on a plateau and there is some housing within view, but under state law, EQT can not drill within 500 feet of Logan Middle School.

Beisler says no surface drilling is allowed and the children and school will be safe.

“We have hold harmless indemnity clauses in that lease to protect the school,” said Beisler. “We’re confident, based on what EQT has presented, what they’ve done in the past, that we would be protected and the children would be protected, as well.”

The district is facing a more than $1.1 million deficit and needs revenue.

“This is seen as a potential source of income, which would positively affect the taxes, hopefully to keep the taxes without there having to be an increase,” said Beisler.

Neighbors don’t dispute the fact that the district needs money.

“To me, there wasn’t much transparency on this issue, but overall good or bad right now, I’m not really sure how I feel about it,” said Joe Squires. “I would say neutral at this point.”

“This is the first time I’ve heard about it,” said neighbor Bill Connell, “and we do stay up on the news. I wasn’t really informed about it. It is in our backyard, so time will tell how it all plays out.”

Meanwhile a local environmental group called Clean Water Action is concerned about an industrial operation working so close to a school, and says this is impact of the state failing to properly fund schools.

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