Pittsburgh Council to Consider Banning Corporations from Drilling for Natural Gas in the City

For Immediate Release

Pittsburgh Council to Consider Banning Corporations from Drilling for Natural Gas in the City

“It’s about our authority as a community to decide, not corporations deciding for us.” – Councilman Doug Shields

PITTSBURGH, PA - At a City Hall press conference today,
Councilman Doug Shields announced he will introduce a bill that would ban
corporations from drilling for gas in the city of Pittsburgh. He said he will
introduce the ordinance following Council's current recess.

At
the heart of "Pittsburgh's Community Protection from Natural Gas
Extraction Ordinance" is this statement of law: It shall be unlawful for any
corporation to engage in the extraction of natural gas within the City of
Pittsburgh.

Also
included in the ordinance is a local "bill of rights" that asserts
legal protections for the right to water, the rights of natural communities,
the right to local self-government, and the right of the people to enforce and
protect these rights through their municipal government.

The
bill was drafted by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund at the
invitation of Council members.

Commenting
on his legislative proposal, Shields stated, "Many people think that this
is only about gas drilling. It's not - it's about our
authority as a municipal community to say "no" to corporations that
will cause damage to our community. It's about our right to community,
local self-government."                                     

Shields urged all municipalities in the Commonwealth to enact
similar laws "to send a message to Harrisburg," and he insisted
that a temporary moratorium "will not be an acceptable consolation prize
for a failure of the State to recognize this local law and these fundamental
rights."

Energy
corporations are setting up shop in communities throughout Pennsylvania, with
plans to drill for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale formation.  The frenzy of
industrial gas extraction that once appeared to be confined to rural
communities and state forest lands has taken residents of the city by surprise.
Corporate "land men" have busily signed-up Pittsburgh property
owners to contracts allowing wells to be erected on private property throughout
the city. The prospect of paved-over green spaces, nights lit like airport
runways, round-the-clock sounds of loud machinery, broken and pitted roads from
the high volume truck traffic, and the threat of toxic trespass by a cocktail
of patented chemicals and escaping methane into the ground water, has alarmed
neighbors of lease-holders, and they've begun to organize in opposition
to the proposed drilling.

Ben
Price, Projects Director for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund,
said he applauds the Council member for taking a stand on behalf of community
rights. "Some will say it's controversial, or that the city
doesn't have the authority to ban gas drilling. The only way that's
true is if the State has the authority to strip the residents of the city of
their rights, and it doesn't."

Price
commented that "we don't have a gas drilling problem. What we have
is a democracy problem. We need to stop treating the environmental symptoms and
cure the societal disease that's brought fracking to our doorstep. The
State says we don't have the right to decide whether or not we get
fracked and that only the corporate-lobbied members of the General Assembly
have the wisdom to decide how much harm should be legalized through
state-issued permits. There's something sick about that kind of thinking.
If we cure the systemic anti-democratic disorder manifested by our
state's refusal to recognize the right to local, community
self-government, gas drilling without consent of the governed will go
away."

The
gas extraction technique known as "fracking" has been cited as a
threat to surface and ground water throughout the region, and has been blamed
for fatal explosions, the contamination of drinking water, local streams, the
air and soil. Collateral damage includes lost property value, ingestion of
toxins by livestock, drying up of mortgage loans for prospective home buyers,
and threatened loss of organic certification for farmers in the affected
communities.

The
Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, located in Chambersburg, has been
working with people in Pennsylvania since 1995 to assert their fundamental
rights to democratic local self-governance, and to enact laws which end
destructive and rights-denying corporate action aided and abetted by state and
federal governments.

 

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