Delay tactic: The county doesn't need a park drilling moratorium

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One way of dealing with controversial subjects is to ignore them in the hope that they will go away. Usually, they don't. Instead, they simmer, making them harder to deal with when the time comes for a decision at last.

Decision delay is a particular temptation for elected officials who don't like to disappoint voters with strong feelings about an issue. Unfortunately, it is a temptation that has gotten the better of Allegheny County Councilwoman Barbara Daly Danko, a Democrat from Regent Square.

On Tuesday night, Ms. Danko introduced legislation banning natural gas drilling in county parks until 2017 -- this as the county is considering such drilling under Deer Lakes Park, situated in Frazer and West Deer. She says she is not against drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale tract; she just wants a more deliberative process not dictated by Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

As we have said previously, the county would do well not to rush into such decisions but allow public hearings to be held first. Parks are special places offering green sanctuaries to county residents. But the county also has an obligation to look at gas drilling as a source of possible revenue to help pay for services -- and that includes in parks if it can be done safely and unobtrusively.

Each park is different and must be considered on an individual basis. In the case of Deer Lakes Park, the drilling will take place off county property and on privately owned land, regardless of county approval. The question for Allegheny County is whether to allow a drill to be angled deep under parkland to tap the gas there.

There is nothing magical about waiting for three years to decide this issue. Those who oppose the controversial method of deep drilling known as fracking are not going to be any less adamant about it in 2017 -- indeed, they might become more adamant as a postponement starts to feel like a ban.

This is nothing more than kicking the can down the road. Indecision is not leadership. The county must proceed carefully, but that doesn't have to take three years.



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