After a whirlwind month of meetings, hundreds of public comments and thousands of petition signatures, Allegheny County Council cast a historic vote tonight to ban new fracking leases in all county parks. The 12-3 vote overrode the county executive’s earlier veto of the bill (Bill No. 12162-22).
“This is a remarkable victory, as it represents the first county-wide anti-fracking action in Pennsylvania history. This common-sense law will help ensure that our county parks, encompassing 12,000 acres across 12 distinct watersheds, will be protected for generations to come,” said Food & Water Watch Senior Organizer Robin Lesko.
County Executive Rich Fitzgerald signed the veto to the bill on July 6th, but chose to have his staff deliver the veto after the final County Council meeting on July 12th before summer recess, forcing a special meeting to be called to hold a veto override vote.
“Despite our County Executive trying to keep us beholden to the fossil fuel industry with his veto, we have voted in favor of clean air, water, and the safety of our community and environment,” said Councilmember Bethany Hallam.
Bethany Hallam, County Council Member at Large, re-introduced the legislation in January 2022, and it was reassigned to the Committee on Green and Sustainability Initiatives, chaired by Council Member, Anita Prizio.
The law will prohibit all surface and subsurface leases in eight of the nine county parks. The ninth, Deer Lakes Park, was leased to fracking in 2014 over vocal public concern. In the years since, researchers at Duquesne have identified fracking-related pollution in the park’s water.
After gaining four co-sponsors (Olivia Bennett, Anita Prizio, Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis, and Jack Betkowski) Hallam worked with community groups to mobilize popular support for the bill.
“This is a hard-fought victory for Allegheny County’s parks and all of us who enjoy them,” said Zachary Barber, the clean air advocate with PennEnvironment. “Today’s vote is a testament to almost a decade of tireless work by Allegheny County parks lovers. Rather than give up after the fracking of Deer Lakes, local residents grabbed their clipboards, laced up their walking shoes, and organized.”
The discussion of banning fracking began in 2013 when grassroots organization Protect Our Parks collected 2,000 signatures in support of a moratorium on fracking in Allegheny County. County Council defeated that measure in 2014 and leased Deer Lakes Park to Range Resources.
“Today we close a chapter on what was started so many years ago— we’ve gained so many friends and lost a few along the way, and today’s victory is in their memory,” said Dianne Peterson of Protect Our Parks.