Pittsburgh City Council members Tuesday unanimously passed a resolution calling for a one-year moratorium on Marcellus Shale gas drilling in Pennsylvania. The resolution is in support of legislation introduced by state Sen. Jim Ferlo and drew the ire of the producer-backed Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC).

"Today's action by the Pittsburgh City Council is unfortunate, unnecessary and frankly, ill-advised," said MSC President Kathryn Klaber. "Most troubling, it comes at a time when the responsible development of clean-burning natural gas from the Marcellus is creating tens of thousands of jobs for residents all across the Commonwealth, breathing new life into our economy at a time and place when it's perhaps never been needed more.

"Unfortunately, council appears to have bought wholesale into the argument that Marcellus exploration represents a threat to our water and surrounding environment, notwithstanding a mountain of evidence from EPA [the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency], DEP [Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection] and a just about every environmental regulator across the country that says precisely the opposite."

Councilman Patrick Dowd introduced the "will of the council" measure. A moratorium would allow for the creation of regulations "to ensure no additional harm will be brought to the state form this activity," Dowd's office said.

While there is no Marcellus Shale drilling taking place within Pittsburgh city limits, a panel assembled by Councilman Doug Shields met recently to discuss concerns about possible drilling in the city.

In June Pittsburgh Democrat Ferlo announced his intent to introduce legislation calling for a one-year moratorium on all new Marcellus Shale gas well drilling in Pennsylvania. The legislation would not only prevent further drilling on state-owned land but would prohibit DEP from issuing any new gas well drilling permits statewide in the Marcellus Shale, Ferlo's office said.

Ferlo cited recent gas well incidents in the state (see Daily GPI, July 16; July 14). "A new industry is entering our state to a lot of excitement and expectations because of the promise of great economic opportunity, but it is clouding our judgment," Ferlo said last month. "We need to take a step back and reexamine the impact that this new activity is going to have on our environment, our state's tourism industry, our labor force, our abundant water resources and on our communities and residents."

The Pennsylvania Environmental Council recently called for a moratorium in a report titled "Developing the Marcellus Shale," which also noted that the huge gas play can have great benefits for the state (see Daily GPI, July 14). One area in which the state could benefit from Marcellus drilling is its pocketbook. Gov. Ed Rendell recently won his battle for a natural gas severance tax with lawmakers, although the actual tax has yet to be hammered out (see Daily GPI, July 7; July 2).

"Producing more energy here at home creates good-paying jobs, and helps drive down our nation's dependence on unstable and unfriendly regions of world for the energy we need to fuel our economy," Klaber said Tuesday. "Pennsylvanians overwhelmingly understand this. Job creators and small business owners understand this, too. It's unfortunate that Pittsburgh City Council does not."

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