Gas driller ban in Pittsburgh proposed; legality questioned

The Associated Press

PITTSBURGH — City Councilman Doug Shields will introduce a bill next month that would ban corporations from drilling for natural gas in the city.

Shields’ proposal, which one fellow councilman suggested might not survive a court challenge, comes as the number of leases signed by property owners to allow drilling has boomed in recent years.

About 7 percent of Allegheny County’s land parcels have been leased for drilling, mostly for Marcellus Shale exploration, according to the University of Pittsburgh Center for Social and Urban Research. In the city, only about 362 acres have been leased, said Bob Gradeck, the research project’s manager said.

Still, Shields said it’s time to act. He plans to introduce the bill Sept. 5 when council reconvenes after the summer break.

“We as a city don’t want to have drilling operations going on in the city of Pittsburgh,” Shields said on Tuesday. “Because they’re adverse to our rights to the use and enjoyment of our property; they’re adverse to our rights to our health and welfare, because of the environmental degradation that it produces.”

The bill is being drafted by the nonprofit Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund.

Councilman Patrick Dowd said the city law department told him that an outright drilling ban likely wouldn’t survive a legal challenge.

Ben Price, director of the nonprofit helping Shields, acknowledged the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Act gives the state authority to regulate those industries.

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