Allegheny Co. Executive: Fracking “Saved the Airport”

Natural gas development enabled Pittsburgh International Airport to expand flights and plan a $1.1 billion renovation, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, a Pittsburgh Democrat, said during a recent interview with the Pittsburgh Business Times. In 2013, the airport authority partnered with Consol Energy – now CNX Resources – to develop natural gas under the airport’s 9,000 acres with an agreement that included a $46 million upfront payment.

As the Business Times reports, that long-term partnership has already resulted in a positive difference for our region:

Without the Consol deal, which included a $46 million upfront payment with the expectation that an additional $20 million would be generated annually, Pittsburgh International Airport was unlikely to have experienced its recent expansion in new daily flights, which Fitzgerald said have grown from a nadir of around 37 a day a few years ago to more than 70 now as the airport has been able to reduce gate fees to airlines due to the gas revenue.

“If we had not done the gas royalty deal with Consol, we would’ve defaulted on our bonding,” said Fitzgerald of Pittsburgh International Airport. “It’s really made us a much better, more attractive place to do business.”

Now, instead of being in default, Pittsburgh International Airport is pursuing a $1.1 billion repositioning and modernization plan that will completely reconfigure its operation, and the county expects revenue from the Consol deal will help generate the financing to pay for it.

In fact, Fitzgerald told KDKA-AM radio last year that natural gas development “saved the airport.” It’s another example of how our abundant and affordable resource is moving our region forward. Let’s flash back to some of the news coverage from 2014 when shale development at PIT took flight.

Now Arriving at Pittsburgh International: Fracking

“For salvation, airport officials are looking down — about 6,000 feet. The quiet runways, it turns out, are sitting on enough natural gas to run the whole state of Pennsylvania for a year and a half, and this month, Consol Energy will drill its first well here to tap the gas, which county officials say will bring them nearly half a billion dollars over the next 20 years.” (Aug. 11, 2014)

Pittsburgh International Airport’s gas drilling royalties flow in

“The airport authority will spend about $24 million of the up-front money during the next five years to lower fees that airlines pay to use the airport. It spent nearly $9 million this year and last year to cut the average cost per passenger from $14.66 to $13.92.Lower fees will make the airport more attractive and competitive.” (Aug. 24, 2014)

Drilling For Natural Gas Now Underway At Airport

“The county will use royalties from the drilling to upgrade the airport, lower gate fees, and promote economic development on airport property.” (Aug. 25, 2014)