Pittsburgh Bans Natural Gas Drilling
Pittsburgh’s first-in-the-nation ordinance confronts the threat of Marcellus Shale drilling – an activity permitted by the state which allows corporations to site drilling activities over the wishes of a community.
Energy corporations are setting up shop in communities across Pennsylvania, to drill for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale formation. The gas extraction technique known as “fracking” has been cited as a threat to surface and groundwater, and has been blamed for fatal explosions, the contamination of drinking water, local rivers, and streams. Collateral damage includes lost property value, ingestion of toxins by livestock, drying up of mortgage loans for prospective home buyers, and threatened loss of organic certification for farmers in affected communities.
Councilman Shields stated, “This ordinance recognizes and secures expanded civil rights for the people of Pittsburgh, and it prohibits activities which would violate those rights. It protects the authority of the people of Pittsburgh to pass this ordinance by undoing corporate privileges that place the rights of the people of Pittsburgh at the mercy of gas corporations.”
Shields added, “With this vote we are asserting the right of the city to make critical decisions to protect our health, safety, and welfare. We are not a colony of the state and will not sit quietly by as our city gets drilled. We encourage communities across the region to take this step and join with us to elevate the rights of communities and people over corporations.”
CELDF’s Ben Price, who is engaging with communities across the state seeking to protect themselves from drilling, said, “Communities are coming to recognize that our state laws and government are not in place to protect their interests, but rather the interests of private corporations.”
Price applauded the city for taking a stand on behalf of community rights. “Some will say that the municipality doesn’t have the authority to ban this noxious practice associated with gas drilling. The only way that’s true is if the state has the authority to strip the residents of their rights, and it doesn’t.”
Under the ordinance, corporations that violate the ordinance or that seek to drill in the city will not be afforded “personhood” rights under the U.S. or Pennsylvania Constitution, nor will they be afforded protections under the Commerce Clause or Contracts Clause under the federal or state constitution.
In addition, the ordinance recognizes the legally enforceable Rights of Nature to exist and flourish. Residents of the city shall possess legal standing to enforce those rights on behalf of natural communities and ecosystems.
The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, located in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, has been working with people in Pennsylvania since 1995 to assert their fundamental rights to democratic local self-governance, and to enact laws which end destructive and rights-denying corporate action aided and abetted by state and federal governments.