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March 24, 2012

Drill deals being considered by school districts, communities

NEW CASTLE — Marcellus and Utica Shale-related drilling and leases are polka-dotting the landscape of Lawrence County.

Several local government entities, including school districts, are considering or have entered land lease offers, and at least three drilling companies are pursuing leases and planning to establish drilling sites throughout the county.

They include Shell Oil Co., Hilcorp Energy of Houston, Texas, and REX Energy of State College, Pa.

According to the Lawrence County Register and Recorder’s office, 1,642 leases were signed in Lawrence County between Jan. 1 and March 19. An additional 1,877 leases were signed in 2011.

Local school districts gave leasing status updates this week but attempts to reach superintendents in Laurel and Neshannock about any leasing potential were unsuccessful.

The Ellwood City Area School District has no land to lease, according to superintendent Frank Aloi.

Below are some of the activities currently involving local government groups:

 WILMINGTON

The Wilmington Area School Board has called a special meeting for 7 p.m. Monday in the high school library to consider two proposals for shale drilling on district-owned land.

 One is from Shell Oil, and the other from CoExprise, a company that seeks and negotiates leases to help the landowners get a fair deal.

District superintendent Dr. C. Joyce Nicksick said the district has 73.35 acres to lease.

An email she received from Shell Oil Co. she said, indicates that Shell is interested only in district-owned properties in Pulaski and Plain Grove townships where the district owns school buildings and a total of 21.009 acres.

Shell has offered $3,250 per acre and 18 percent royalties, Nicksick said. In its email, Shell urged the school board not to sign with companies that only negotiate and do not drill.

Nicksick said she intends to invite representatives of Shell and of CoExprise to Monday’s meeting, and noted that while Shell is interested in the Plain Grove and Pulaski properties, CoExprise expressed interest in leasing all of the district’s acreage. This includes the school properties in New Wilmington Borough and in Wilmington Township, Mercer County.

The school board members on Monday took a straw poll to see if there is interest in entering any leases, before it set the a special meeting.

“I don’t want it,” board member Dr. David Swerdlow declared.

But the majority of the members attending said they are willing to consider it. Dr. Bo DiMuccio was absent from the meeting.

Nicksick told the board that CoExprise will finish its leasing activity in the county by March 31.

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