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Discussing Municipal Bans on Fracking

Natasha Khan

In 2010, Pittsburgh was the first municipality in the nation to institute a ban on hydraulic fracturing. Many others have followed suit, including the boroughs of Baldwin, West Homestead and Wilkinsburg, as well as State College, PA.

Now citizens in Youngstown, Ohio are looking at the structure of Pittsburgh’s fracking ban in shaping a their own ordinances. PublicSource reporter Natasha Khan recently wrote about the ongoing debates in Youngstown as it pertains to jobs and environmental concerns.

Opponents of the Youngstown ban say it’s unconstitutional for a municipality to regulate beyond state and federal law. Similar objections have also been raised in Pennsylvania.

Former Pittsburgh City Councilman, Doug Shields, spearheaded Pittsburgh’s fracking ban in 2010. He says the city’s ordinance was developed out of concern for a lack of regulation from higher government bodies.

Shields says residents were offered checks to lease their land for drilling, but it wasn’t clear to the city council whether state regulators had properly investigated all of the risks associated with drilling in the city limits.

Ross Pifer, Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Agricultural Law Resource and Reference Center at Penn State University says Act 13, is likely to play a strong role in the future of municipal bans in PA.

Despite pending litigation over the zoning provisions of Act 13, Pifer says, "it's likely that there will still be some limitations on municipal governments from acting." And he predicts that communities with ordinances such as Pittsburgh's will likely be drawn into future litigation.

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