"I told my husband that I'll fight them (drillers) until my last breath," said a resident.

Trustees consider gas wells in Powdermill Nature Reserve
Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The lure of millions of dollars in natural gas royalties has prompted officials at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History to study whether to permit drilling on the Marcellus shale range at its Powdermill Nature Reserve in Westmoreland County.

Powdermill Nature Reserve in Westmoreland CountyCarnegie spokeswoman Betty Momich said trustees of the Pittsburgh-based museum are a long way from deciding whether to allow drilling on the 2,200-acre preserve in Cook Township.

She said several firms have broached the subject of drilling at the site.

"As a significant landowner, we will be impacted by drilling one way or another, and right now we're involved in a lot of information-gathering," Momich said. "We are interested in pursuing a positive impact for ourselves, our neighbors and our work there."

Powdermill was established in 1956 as a museum field station where scientists study changes in the environment and wildlife populations. The nature reserve, with extensive hiking trails and conservation programs for adults and children, was created with a joint gift of land from Gen. Richard K. Mellon and Mr. and Mrs. Alan Magee Scaife. It was named for Powdermill Run, a mountain stream traversing the land.

Momich said environmental impact tops the list of concerns for trustees, who have no deadline for making a decision.

"We are a science-based organization that is very passionate about environmental and conservation issues," she said.

Those concerns were echoed by one of Powdermill's longtime neighbors.

Retiree Zelda McKlveen, who has lived along Route 381 in Cook her entire life, is surrounded by Powdermill property and has had a number of inquiries from drilling companies.

"I told my husband that I'll fight them (drillers) until my last breath before they drill here," she said. "It's so beautiful here. And all of us have well water, and how would it impact that? It costs at least $10,000 to drill a well today."

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