Allegheny County councilwoman Danko proposes 3-year hold on gas drilling in parks

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Saying "the parks are different," an Allegheny County councilwoman is calling for a three-year hold on drilling for natural gas beneath county parkland, potentially halting plans to produce gas from Deer Lakes Park.

In an ordinance scheduled to debut at Tuesday's council meeting, Barbara Daly Danko, D-Regent Square, and her co-sponsor, John Palmiere, D-Baldwin Township, propose a stop on drilling in parks until 2017, saying unresolved legal issues and untested environmental regulations have made them wary.

The ordinance will likely be assigned to a committee and won't be voted on until at least Sept. 24.

"Some people might say this is kicking the can down the road, but I think that's appropriate to do in this case," Ms. Danko said. "Because drilling is still relatively new in Pennsylvania, and there are still state laws and resolutions that are working their way through the system, I think it behooves us to put a three-year hold on it."

The councilwoman said she is not opposed to natural gas drilling. While she voted earlier this year against drilling at Pittsburgh International Airport, her quibble was with the quality of the contract.

But moving from drilling at the airport, which she termed "an industrial zone," to the potential for hydraulic fracturing beneath county parkland is too fast a shift for her taste.

County leaders pitched the airport project as a test to see how drilling on county lands would work -- and that test hasn't yet begun.

Ms. Danko is prepared for a fight on council, where she'll need eight votes to pass her resolution. It would then face a promised veto from Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, which would require 10 votes to override.

"I think that this ordinance will certainly promote the discussion of whether we want to or don't want to have drilling adjacent or under the county parks," she said. "And I believe it would be a very close vote."

Mr. Fitzgerald disagreed, saying the county might not have time to spare in clinching a deal with drillers.

"Why should we be sending a signal that's going to hurt our workers -- all of our trades, and our restaurants and our hotels?" he said. "This has been an absolute economic boon for this region."

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Andrew McGill: or 412-263-1497.


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