Pittsburgh Councilman’s Last Attempt at Toxic Trespass Law

In one last metaphorical flip of the middle finger to the Marcellus drilling industry, outgoing Pittsburgh City Councilman Doug Shields is trying to get his “toxic trespass” legislation adopted by City Council before Dec. 31.

The Pittsburgh region needs an "environmental rights renaissance," city Councilman Doug Shields said Wednesday, defending a controversial anti-pollution bill that may not survive into the new year.

With less than two weeks remaining in Mr. Shields’ last term, council gave final approval Monday to his bill attempting to hold out-of-town natural gas producers liable for any pollution in the city or poisoning of its residents. It also would attempt to hold accountable federal, state or local governments that licensed the polluters.

"We need an environmental rights renaissance around here," Mr. Shields said, adding that a similar "toxic trespass" law is needed to protect the region’s residents from emissions by coal-fired power plants.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl hasn’t stated a position on the legislation, but he vetoed a previous bill, also introduced by Mr. Shields, that banned natural gas production in the city. Council mustered votes to override the veto and implement the ban, but Mr. Shields said he doesn’t know whether he has enough support to override a veto of the new bill, designed to protect city residents from production mishaps originating in other municipalities.

If Mr. Ravenstahl vetoes the bill, an override vote would be held Dec. 30.*

*Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Dec 23, 2011) – Bill could hold gas companies liable