Posted by Mark Nootbaar on November 10th, 2010

As Pittsburgh City Council debated the merits of a bill that would ban future drilling in the Marcellus Shale formation within the city limits, it became clear that some members were curious how much it would cost to defend the bill in a court of law. Many legal experts believe the law would run afoul of state law that forces local governments to provide for all types of activities within its borders. Councilman Patrick Dowd has asked the city’s legal department to come up with a cost in time and dollars if it should face a challenge of the law.

Councilman Doug Shields, who is the lead sponsor of the bill, has been working closely with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund on that front. The group helped to write the legislation and CELDF Projects Director Ben Price says they will be there to help. “We’ve certainly volunteered to offer our services,” says Price, “It could be assistance, consultation with whatever legal council is secured by the city.” Price says he will get that promise, in writing, to the council before they take a final vote next week. He says it is impossible to put a price tag on the fight at this time, “Is it going to be expensive to fight large corporations that have lots of money? They have lots of money, I guess that’s the answer.”

Price says rather than looking at the cost of defending the ordinance the council should focus on the cost of not fighting the ordinance. “Not to stand up for your rights is to give them away,” says Price, “and what is the expense of that.” He says the real question being answered is “who gets to decide what the future of your community is going to be? Is it going to be a board of directors for a private corporation? Is it going to be a regulatory agency? Or is it going to be the people who are actually impacted and affected by governing decisions?”

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