Monday, August 16, 2010

GasBurgh: Exploring "No". [UPDATED w/ Mayor]

Sure, we could just go after it like so many Neanderthals...

Pittsburgh City Councilman Doug Shields today said that he's introducing legislation to ban Marcellus Shale drilling in the city. (P-G, Joe Smydo)

KDKA radio reporter/anchor/person Matt DelSignore presents us with some nuance up-front:

I've heard it argued that enacting an outright ban would draw a blisteringly immediate and successful legal injunction from the gas industry in Commonwealth court, leaving the city with no regulation whatsoever once again.

I've also heard it suggested that neglecting to "engage" in the discussion of how best to regulate natural gas drilling "leaves the City out of the conversation", perhaps obliterating some avenues by which we could affect county, state and national currents.

Still, there's something I like about this:

I just dearly hope somebody's doing the homework on "will cause damage to our community"!!!

More from DelSignore:

Ouch: and he follows up with, "DEP says there's a 99% chance this kind of ban would be unenforceable."

*-UPDATE: Mayor rides in.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl also opposes a ban, in part because drilling would create jobs, tax revenue for the state and spinoff revenue -- such as earned-income tax -- for the financially strapped city, his spokeswoman, Joanna Doven said. At the same time, she said, Mr. Ravenstahl understands concerns about potential hazards.

"What the mayor is focusing on is balancing the two," she said, noting the city is "going to prepare for any possible" pollution, well fires or other risks. (P-G, Joe Smydo)

Being welcoming to business --> not entirely unexpected or alien. "Preparing for any possible risks" --> seems like a big job depending on what it means, wonder what goes into that.


  1. This approach is about 6 years too late, sorry to say. At this point, all it does is waste time and obscure the issue.

  2. I liked your other idea better. It really does seem to me that Pittsburgh and its local institutions could lead the charge on identifying risks to municipalities and either building the case for exclusionary zones, or at least formulating best-practice regulations. Stomping their feet and futilely yelling no may be more emotionally satisfying (and a whole lot less work), but the wider potential of your first idea is much greater.

  3. This is bad news for all of us...but here we have an issue that requires patience, understanding, research, and compromise. Hand-waving and posturing do nothing to help the situation. We will shortly see if we, as a region, are up to the challenge that we face.

  4. Well, I wonder ... seeing as how the industry seems to be saying that Pittsburgh proper is a long way off from being properly exploited ... does this hurt at all? I mean, could we run the ban up the flagpole to see what happens WHILE we do research, marshal allies, keep tabs on others and huddle with our lawyers for our next trick?

    Psychologically maybe the ban takes the steam out of our creative engine but then again maybe it doesn't. Maybe the attempted and brief ban even focuses a lot of energy an attention this way. Besides, we might get lucky right?

    If anyone can think of a way in which a ban does actual harm, I'd like to hear it.

  5. Alright, wait -- keep having to remind myself -- yes, you could say it harms us by robbing us of valuable energy, and jobs and revenue.

    Of course as far as energy goes, I think it makes perfect sense to freeload off the rest of the country while keeping ourselves as pristine as possible. A good strategy for standing out and having the advantage at the end of all this. And as far as jobs go -- I wish I knew more, but it does SEEM like the kind of operation where they bus people in for the duration and roll on afterwords. I guess the best argument can be made for direct payroll taxes and more folks to going to restaurants and taverns and buying Steelers merchandise.

  6. DaveP,

    If you threw in a few more buzzwords, you could be king of the PR hacks. If you are somebody's PR hack trying to sound like a disinterested party, then you might need to hit your head on the floor until you damage whatever part of your brain compels you to use the phrase “up to the challenge” without sarcasm.

    Cities set weight limits on trucks and zone areas for different uses all of the time. Why is this different?

  7. Can we sell Marcellus Shale for $200 million to prop up the pension fund?

    It will bring MORE jobs to Pittsburgh, instead of selling the parking assets, which will drive jobs OUT of Pittsburgh

    Just sayin'

  8. Anon 12:16 - Maybe we can sell the parking assets directly to the Marcellus Shale, allowing our garages and meters to metamorphose into carbon compounds over millenia, whilst keeping them "public" and keeping all the nephews of important committeefolk employed there.


  9. You can see the run-around on this. First, they say the issue isn't relevant. Next, they say it should be taken-up at whatever level of government you are not dealing with. Then they say it is too late. Then somebody says the issue is jobs.

    If they actually felt the issue was 'jobs,' they would have mentioned jobs from the start.

  10. Bram, I think this does harm because it might drag the city into court - expending valuable time and resources on the way to a resounding defeat.

    MH, not sure what you didn't understand. I don't think this is a city issue, it is a regional issue. If we succeeded in banning city drilling, we would be surrounded by wells in Allegheny County, and the environmental consequences of drilling would be ours to share anyway. A moratorium makes no sense for a single municipality. If you have one, it has to be for the here we are drawing up lines of battle over city drilling, which is well short of an effective mark.

  11. If we succeeded in banning city drilling, we would be surrounded by wells in Allegheny County

    Exactly. That's the idea. Certain types of industrial (and agricultural) activity are not compatible with urbanization, suburbanization, or nearby residential development. Because of that, there are a great many things that you can do outside of cities and towns that you cannot do inside of a city or a town. There are things that you can do only in certain parts of a city or town that are zoned industrial. How is extracting natural gas any different? You can’t even build a strip mall without the city determining the roads can handle the traffic, but you can bring in hundreds of trucks of pipes and water and haul out gas and that is somehow only a state matter?

    Yes, there are environmental consequences that spread beyond the borders of one city and those do need to be addressed. But, that is a separate question that whether or not it is a good idea to drill in a city.

    Let us all now take a moment to pull together as a region to face the challenges of the future. Then somebody can explain to Dave why it’s O.K. to piss in the bathroom and not the kitchen.

  12. It is okay to piss in the bathroom but not the South Side.


    .... Nevermind ....

  13. Infy--

    I was considering relocating from the City to Indiana Township.

    After looking at Pitt's map on gas leases, the City is looking better and better....

    Now if we could only fix the damn schools..... the pensions...... assessments...... okay, I'm moving out of state!

  14. Inasmuch as I would support a moratorium, I would support it for rural communities as well as urban fact, more so, because drilling is far more likely out in the sticks than in Squirrel Hill or Lawrenceville - and oversight is far LESS likely. If people want to scrap with industry, then small communities should benefit as well as the larger ones.

    I don't categorize it as "only" a state matter. A state ban would carry more clout than a city ban. If drilling is wrong in Pittsburgh, why is it right in Murraysville, Washington, or Dimock?

  15. I tend to agree with DaveP that a city-only ban would only offer a certain limited manner of protection. The map of present drilling lease sites shows each of the two most dense areas of presumable future activity are directly upriver to the Mon and the Al. Perfectly inconvenient.

    But a ban would shield us from other types of unpleasant effects just as MH states, and if the ban takes (big if) that'll give your Fawn and Forward townships something to think about. I guess. It worries me a little that Doug had to go to Franklin County to find an enviro-lawyer ready to champion his concept, but I do suspect it's possible with the right insane amount of homework.

    Got to respect the politics of this too. Shields will be beatified by his East End base in advance of whatever he plans to do in the spring, all the while driving a wedge straight through Dowd's constituency and effectively stealing his thunder. NOICE.

  16. If drilling is wrong in Pittsburgh, why is it right in Murraysville, Washington, or Dimock?

    I have no idea what Dimock is, but the people of the other two places should be allowed to keep out drilling and public urination.

    But, do you understand my basic point? I'm arguing that it makes sense, in some regards, for different areas to have different laws.

  17. Shields will be beatified by his East End base...

    Just to be clear, I write-in swear words rather than vote Shields.

  18. I believe leases in the City proper: is one of logistics of location, distribution and consumption. Leases do not necessarily mean is a catch all term.

    Affordable natural gas in an urban environment could bring back manufacturing. Would rather see gas used here to create jobs..

    Keep it Local!


  19. Beatified?

    Bram, isn't that word just a BIT too Catholic for civilized society?

  20. I can't see much harm in floating the idea, nor in taking a symbolic stand. But I would tend to agree that actually litigating the issue would be an unnecessary waste of money, unless you had some hope of winning.

  21. On one of my many excursions over the past several months I stumbled upon what I believe to be the beginning of the Marcellus Shale operation. I was visiting many of the State Parks facing budgetary difficulties and by happenstance visited Ryerson Station State Park in the very southwestern part of the state.

    I have an education and experience in engineering and when I can upon a new compressor station at entrance to park I was immediately convinced it was related to Marcellus Shale operation. After a short visit with a local and renown patriot I left upon trail he provided. And, along that trail was large volume piping newly constructed and headed northwest..

    I lost the pipe in the hills and ended up in West Virginia along the Ohio River, Moundsville to be precise. In that part of the Ohio Valley Industry survives…and thrives.

    If in fact, leases within the confines of Pittsburgh feed adjoining states then I would support Councilman Shields ban on Leases.

    Just thinking that like all things in life, the benefits of Marcellus Shale follow the path of least residence.

    What an opportunity, should we as a City become the hub for distribution.

    Keep it Local!


  22. Here's another possibility. Shields sees a couple of political opportunities here, in my opinion. He can be the guy who courageously stood up to Industry against massive odds. Then, because drilling in the city is extremely unlikely for the foreseeable future, he can claim that they are not drilling because they are afraid of the opposition he mustered. Of course opposition is one of the reasons that industry will choose to exploit rural holdings, but it is only one of many other reasons.

    Now that the mayor has weighed in basically along the lines of most other PA politicians, he can also toss that ongoing conflict into all of this.

    As a Dowd constituent, I couldn't be happier with how my council office has approached this. Patrick has sought to help citizens learn more about the issue. He has toured a drilling site, he has hosted a community panel and brought both sides together for discussion, he has done a lot of real work on the topic in his district. He has not used it to make political hay, an approach which we are really starting to see in droves now.

  23. After the grandstanding is over, lets focus on the real impacts that we DO control through our own environmental and land use regulations (Air pollution, noise, zoning, transportation etc). Creativity from DCP if the mayor would effectively create a ban, sort of like limiting locations of strip clubs ;)