Pittsburgh Council holds a public hearing at 7 this evening in council chambers to get citizens' input on drilling for gas in the Marcellus Shale formation in the city. The public could also comment on Councilman Doug Shields' proposal to ban drilling within the city's boundaries.
Supporters of the drilling say it will create jobs, generate revenues for municipalities and the state and spur economic development. Opponents say the drilling poses an environmental threat because water, mixed with sand and chemicals, is used to fracture the shale 8,000 feet below ground level. Critics fear this fracking water could seep into underground water sources and that the chemically-treated water that returns to the surface might not all be recaptured and instead pollute streams.
But Shields plan to prohibit drilling in the city could face a legal challenge. In February 2009, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that municipalities can use zoning ordinances to limit where wells can be drilled but cannot ban the drilling completely.
Still, Shields believes the Pennsylvania Constitution supports his proposal...
"People have the right to clean air, pure water and to the preservation of natural, scenic, historic and aesthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania's public natural resources are the common property of all the people including generations yet to come.
Shields says he doesn't know how much support he has among his colleagues on council and is open to amendments..."I'm looking for a dialogue centered on constitutional issues and centered on public health and safety issues."
A spokeswoman for Mayor Luke Ravenstahl says the city solicitor is looking at Shields' proposal to determine if it's enforceable.