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Mineral rights sought on land wanted for Flight 93 memorial

Visitors paid respects in 2002 at a makeshift memorial for the victims of Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001 in Shanksville, Pa. Visitors paid respects in 2002 at a makeshift memorial for the victims of Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001 in Shanksville, Pa.
Associated Press / April 8, 2009
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WASHINGTON - The National Park Service has decided to acquire the mineral rights on a major portion of land at the Flight 93 crash site in western Pennsylvania to help ensure memorial construction isn't delayed.

Just who would retain the oil and gas rights - the landowner or the government - was one of the last open issues in negotiations.

In February, government officials and representatives of the passengers and crew killed when the plane crashed on Sept. 11, 2001, pledged to dedicate a memorial by the 10th anniversary of the attacks. The pledge was made after an agreement was reached with the owner of a key parcel of 275 acres - including the impact site - who agreed to allow the court to decide the value.

As part of the agreement, the government and the landowner, Svonavec Inc., were each given the option to explore the possibility of the landowner keeping the mineral rights.

The National Park Service has since decided the government should hold those rights, according to a memo obtained by the Associated Press. It said doing so is necessary "in order to preserve the sacred nature of the memorial," and it will ask a federal court to determine the value of the mineral rights.

Patrick White, vice president of the Families of Flight 93, said in a statement the group is hopeful the government will acquire the land as soon as possible.

United Flight 93 was traveling from Newark to San Francisco when it was diverted by hijackers with the likely goal of crashing it into the White House or Capitol.