Officials worry about Marcellus drilling in city

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With two colleagues pushing for an outright ban and an industry group already up in arms, Pittsburgh City Councilman Patrick Dowd on Tuesday introduced a bill to impose some guidelines on Marcellus Shale drilling in the city.

The bill would outlaw drilling on sites smaller than 15 acres, and it would bar production activities within 1,000 feet of homes or public structures, such as schools and churches.

Drillers also would have to submit emergency management plans for handling explosions, fires or natural disasters. The plans would have to be approved by the city's public safety director.

If it appears that the city's public-safety branches require additional training in order to handle emergencies at drilling sites, production companies would have to pick up the tab.

No Marcellus Shale drilling is taking place in the county, but 60 landowners in Mr. Dowd's district alone already have signed leases giving drillers access to their properties.

Councilmen Bill Peduto and Doug Shields said they favored a ban on drilling, in part because of the city's efforts to break away from a polluted, industrial past. Mr. Peduto said production companies would like access to the city's rivers, but if there's a hazardous materials spill, "goodbye, drinking water."

As a proposed zoning change, the bill immediately takes effect on a temporary basis, pending action by the planning commission and council.

It's unclear how effective the regulations might be. State law supersedes local drilling ordinances, something Kathryn Z. Klaber, president and executive director of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry group, pointed out in a letter dashed off to council Tuesday.

Ms. Klaber said Mr. Dowd's bill "seeks to deny thousands of city residents the fundamental ability to develop their mineral rights for the benefit of themselves, their families, their state, and their nation."


Joe Smydo: jsmydo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1548.


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