Proposed Pittsburgh Permanent Drilling Ban May Not be Legal

Doug ShieldsPittsburgh City Councilman Doug Shields, who will soon be leaving office, is staunchly anti-drilling. He led the successful effort to have hydraulic fracturing and shale gas drilling banned in the City of Pittsburgh. The ban was enacted by City Council last November. Now that Mr. Shields has landed on the happy shores of no drilling, he wants to burn the ships to ensure future Council members can’t undo all of his good work. His method? Amend the City’s Home Rule Charter to permanently ban drilling anywhere in the city limits.

Mr. Shields has proposed a measure be put on the ballot in November to let voters decide if the Charter should be amended. There’s just one small problem: It’s probably not legal.

Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato said Wednesday he has "serious concerns" about the legality of Pittsburgh City Council’s proposed ballot referendum banning natural gas drilling within city limits.

Council on Monday approved legislation that would ask voters to decide in November whether to add the ban to the city’s Home Rule Charter. Council banned Marcellus shale gas drilling within city limits in November.

Councilman Doug Shields proposed the bill, saying a charter amendment would make the ban harder to overturn. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, who said he has concerns about the legality of the ban, is considering a veto.

In a written statement, Onorato said he directed the county solicitor and Elections Department to review and analyze the referendum.*

We’ll keep you posted as this story develops.

*Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Aug 4, 2011) – Onorato questions drilling referendum’s legality