Remember when TTF attended that long day of Marcellus Shale hearings at Philadelphia City Council last year? Well, Council members are clearly following the Shale issue closely, as they just unanimously voted for a ban on natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale. This resolution is merely symbolic, but hopefully the Delaware River Basin Commission will consider it when making their recommendations on natural gas drilling.
The request was part of a set of recommendations in a report approved by the city council asking federal and state authorities to tighten drilling regulations. The report also urges the city-owned utility to avoid buying gas that comes from the Marcellus Shale, the layer of rock that stretches under much of Pennsylvania and is considered one of the world’s largest gas fields.
But the vote was largely symbolic. The utility doesn’t buy any Marcellus Shale gas and has no plans to — and new drilling in the Delaware River Basin is already on hold. The idea was to send a message, said Michelle Wilson, a spokeswoman for Curtis Jones, Jr., the councilman who sponsored the report.
“Philadelphia is a major city and we’re hoping that behind this push, that we can use it for leverage,” Wilson said.
The report cites the uncertainty around the environmental and economic impact of hydraulic fracturing—in which drillers use millions of gallons of water mixed with sand and chemicals to extract gas—to argue for a cautious approach to drilling. The Delaware River Basin Commission, the interstate authority that must authorize drilling permits in the watershed, has already suspended approving new wells until it adopts a set of regulations  covering gas drilling. That process will take months, said a spokeswoman for the commission. The city council asked that the ban be extended until an EPA study of hydraulic fracturing is completed, which isn’t expected until next year.