Pittsburgh Takes a Stance Against Fracking; Who's Next?

A bill in Pittsburgh would ban corporations from drilling for natural gas. A bold move -- will it work?

As the debate over fracking intensifies across the U.S., opponents are finding different ways to fight the expansion of the natural gas drilling method that so many people feel is unsafe for the environment and human health.

In Pittsburgh this week, that opposition has come in the form of a proposed ban: city City Councilman Doug Shields plans to introduce a bill next month that would prohibit corporations from drilling in Pittsburgh.

Some feel it's unlikely to pass. But an interesting point that works in the bill's favor: authority to regulate the industry lies with the state—not the city—but an outright ban would not count as regulation.

Don't let big tech control what news you see. Get more stories like this in your inbox, every day.

Ben Price, who works with a local nonprofit law firm and who helped draft the bill, believes that could make all the difference: the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes, "a ban is not a regulation, Mr. Price said, suggesting that distinction opens the door for Mr. Shields' legislation."

The story continues:

Governments long have struggled in legal fights to ban strip clubs and firearms, but those debates involved thorny First and Second Amendment issues, Mr. Price and Mr. Shields said. They noted that Pennsylvania municipalities, while lacking authority to regulate liquor sales within their borders, may elect to go dry and ban them altogether.

Mr. Price also said a municipality has the fundamental right and "police powers" to protect its residents' safety and welfare.

Councilman Shields seems to recognize it might not be a popular move or a likely success, but stands firm in his belief that the government should do its best to act in the best interests of the city. The Post-Gazette quotes him saying, "Why can't we say no? Why is it that local authorities, the local government, can't make that determination?"

With debate picking up around the country, from the Rockies to upstate New York, will other local governments take the same stance?