Pittsburgh City Council has given preliminary approval to a ban on future Marcellus Shale gas well drilling. The bill, which was first introduced in August has gone through several rounds of debate at the council table and has been the subject of more than one public input session. Bill Sponsor Doug Shields says over the weeks it has become clearer to him that the ban is needed if the city is to protect its water supply, property values and quality of life. Most council members and legal experts believe the bill runs afoul of state law but Shields says it is far too important of an issue for him to worry about a legal challenge. “Maybe some members are comfortable with this challenge, some members aren’t, but I won’t concede an inch on a legal argument. I will not concede anything until that argument is made. I will not be preempted. I hope we do not preempt the city’s voice,” says Shields.
Shields says he is not certain that the drilling companies would want to launch the fight but if they do he has been in contact with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund. A representative of that group says he will put in writing that the CELDF will provide free legal assistance to the city if a challenge if filed.
The bill was passed 7-0 with councilmen Ricky Burgess and Daniel Lavelle not in the room at the time of the vote. While the mayor has not taken a stance on the bill the 7 votes means council would be able to override a veto.