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Pittsburgh Frack Ban and Drilling Moratorium Might Not Be Legal

by Kenneth E. DuBose on August 5, 2011

Pittsburgh’s City Council passed a measure that authorizes a referendum on natural gas drilling in the city and Dan Onoranto and others say there are serious legal questions around whether a referendum can actually be imposed.

If the measure goes forward, it will be taken to a vote later in the year where voters would decide if the city should add a community bill of rights that would ban natural gas drilling. We should find out soon whether or not a drilling ban will make it to the ballot. Most concerns stem from fears around hydraulic fracturing or fracking. As the EPA studies the practice, we should begin to learn more and more about the completion technology that is used in the Marcellus Shale. Hopefully, the results will alleviate concerns from the City Council. We expect this will be challenged soon.

Mr. Onorato said county lawyers and elections officials are reviewing legislation authorizing the referendum — a bill Pittsburgh City Council passed Monday despite objections from the city’s own law department.

“Their preliminary review indicates significant legal issues that would prevent the elections department from placing the question on the ballot,” Mr. Onorato said in a statement. “While the law and elections departments have only conducted a cursory review thus far, I have serious concerns over the legality of placing this referendum on the ballot. I look forward to receiving their formal analysis.”

Read the full news release at

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