Pittsburgh drilling referendum faces legal issues

Fri, Aug 5 2011 — Source: Wall Street Journal

A Pittsburgh City Council bill to put a referendum on the November ballot to ban natural gas drilling may wind up being a meaningless political gesture ”” as well as illegal.

Council approved the bill with a veto-proof 6-3 majority on Monday, over the objections of the city’s Law Department. The bill would let residents vote on amending the city charter to ban drilling as part of a “community bill of rights.”

City lawyers have said in a memo that the charter amendment would be “invalid and unenforceable” because it conflicts with state laws that allow gas production and could lead to residents and businesses suing the city for lost royalties if they’re prevented from leasing gas drilling rights on their properties.