Pittsburgh bans gas drilling, citing ‘significant threat to health’

The city of Pittsburgh Tuesday night banned natural gas drilling within the city limits, with the city council voting 9-0 to avoid the “significant threat to the health, safety and welfare of residents and neighborhoods within the city,” according to the new ordinance.

In Colorado, the controversial but widely used process of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” has been hotly debated the last several years. Critics say the high pressure injection of water and undisclosed chemicals meant to fracture shale and free up gas can lead to the contamination of groundwater. Industry officials deny such allegations.

Colorado’s senior congresswoman, Democrat Diana DeGette, introduced a bill last year meant to repeal an exemption for fracking under the Safe Drinking Water Act that was granted during the Bush administration in 2005. DeGette’s FRAC Act has languished in Congress, but now the EPA is studying the process.

ProPublica reports Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl has indicated he opposes the ordinance banning gas drilling — which some say may be illegal because it prohibits a controversial but otherwise lawful commercial endeavor — and that the mayor has 10 days to review and possibly veto the measure. Six council votes would be needed to override his veto.

The Marcellus Shale, which runs under much of Pennsylvania and New York, has brought significant attention to natural gas drilling and the fracking process because it’s taking place in highly populous areas near major drinking water sources, including rivers and streams that feed the New York City water supply.

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