MDN has been following the deal to lease 9,263 acres of Pittsburgh International Airport land for shale gas drilling. As you may recall, there were two bids submitted in December, one by CONSOL with an 18% royalty and signing bonus of $20.8 million, and one from EQT, also with an 18% royalty but a hefty $44 million signing bonus—more than twice that of CONSOL. Logic would dictate that EQT’s bid would be accepted. But it wasn’t. The Airport Authority chose to accept CONSOL’s bid, leading us to theorize that the “fix” was in (see Inside Job? Pittsburgh Airport Leases Land to CONSOL).
A few weeks later word came out that the Airport Authority was negotiating with CONSOL to get them to raise their signing bonus, which seemed strange to us. We’ve never heard of a government agency accepting a bid and then turning around and renegotiating it (see Pittsburgh Airport Wants More $ from CONSOL…After Accepting Bid). It appears that “further negotiation” was successful. The Airport Authority now reports they’ve approved a renegotiated deal with CONSOL with a $50 million signing bonus—nearly 2 1/2 times the original amount offered when the sealed bids were opened in December. Anyone else smell rotten fish?