Fresh from being told that portions of its drilling ordinance are incompatible with Act 13, the state’s new omnibus Marcellus Shale law, the city of Pittsburgh plans to support the law’s opponents in court and file an amicus curiae brief.

“The council is unanimous in this decision to file an amicus brief,” Pittsburgh City Council President Darlene Harris said Friday. “There has been much discussion in recent weeks as to whether or not the city should file an amicus brief on the governing body’s behalf. It is difficult to get nine votes on legislation of this nature and I am pleased that the council is of one mind on this matter.”

But on Monday, Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl told attendees at the Pennsylvania Energy and Manufacturing Summit, an event sponsored by the Consumer Energy Alliance, that he believes the city’s ban on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) should be repealed, arguing that it sends the wrong message to the industry. According to the Pittsburgh Business Times, the mayor said he tried to “be a voice of reason for the industry,” but his veto of the ban was ultimately overridden by the city council (see Shale Daily, Aug. 10, 2011; Aug. 4, 2011).

“I’ve heard from [energy company] CEOs directly [that] they feel they’re not wanted in Pittsburgh,” Ravenstahl told the Times. “It frustrates me because I haven’t heard of anyone having an interest in drilling [within the city limits].”

Last week Harris told NGI’s Shale Daily that she doesn’t intend to have the city council revisit or reword Pittsburgh’s drilling ordinance, despite criticism from the state Public Utility Commission (PUC) that it ran afoul of Act 13 (see Shale Daily, Sept. 13). The PUC began issuing nonbinding advisory opinions on local drilling ordinances this month, a move that raised the ire of Allegheny County’s South Fayette Township, one of the municipalities in the legal challenge to Act 13 (see Shale Daily, Sept. 12; Sept. 10).

The PUC told Pittsburgh officials that four sections of the city’s ordinance, enacted in 2010, needed to be amended. An outright ban on commercially extracting natural gas within the city limits prompted the biggest rebuke (see Shale Daily, Nov. 17, 2010).

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on the constitutionality of Act 13 on Oct. 17 in Pittsburgh (Robinson Township et al v. Commonwealth et al, No. 284-MD-2012) (see Shale Daily, Sept. 11). An appellate court had ruled in July that portions of the law were unconstitutional on the grounds that they violated municipalities’ right to substantive due process (see Shale Daily, July 27).

“If Act 13 is upheld by the Supreme Court, we cannot fulfill our duties nor our oaths of office,” Harris said. “This brief is simply about preserving our city’s self determination; our residents should have a say as to whether a strip club, slaughterhouse, garbage dump, cell phone tower or a gas well is allowed to be put next to their homes.”