Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Council 9-0 for Shale Gas Ban

A ban on drilling for gas in the Marcellus Shale formation under the city of Pittsburgh is all but on the books. Pittsburgh City Council today took a final 9-0 vote on the controversial ordinance. The mayor has not yet said if he will sign the ordinance but the unanimous vote makes it veto proof. Doug Shields, who championed the cause, says the focus on controlling gas drilling cannot wane. He called on council members to turn their attention to a bill sponsored by Councilman Patrick Dowd that would limit where a gas company can drill through zoning rules. Shields also called on council to continue to serve as a role model for other municipalities. “Honestly, I never really realized how broad and how far this council’s voice was heard,” says Shields. Other municipalities are considering similar bans.

The legislation could run afoul of state law that prevents a municipality from banning any type of activity within its borders. Shields says it is time for the state to act to protect the health and the rights of the citizens of Pennsylvania rather than looking out for big business and their bottom lines. Shale drillers have threatened to pull business from Pittsburgh based companies and say they may not locate headquarters or other offices in the city. Marcellus Shale Coalition executive director Kathryn Klaber says “The vote represents a blow to the city's weak financial standing, and at the same time is a straightforward attack on individual property rights. At a time when the natural gas industry is generating jobs and prosperity for tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians and economic development across the Commonwealth, it's unfortunate that the council continues to maintain a shortsighted view regarding responsible shale gas development and its overwhelmingly positive economic, environmental and energy security benefits."

Council President Darlene Harris scoffed at threats of losing jobs, “Yeah, they’re bringing jobs alright, There are going to be a lot of jobs for funeral homes and hospitals. That’s where the jobs are.” The comments drew applause from the audience. Harris encouraged them to continue to put pressure on elected officials at all levels saying a lawmaker may be wavering but “when about 800 constituents come walking into a room and tell you, ‘this is not what I want’ you get a vote for a ban.”

After the 9-0 vote, supporters in the audience gave council a standing ovation and several council members stood up and applauded them.

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