In an unusual move, Allegheny County Council voted to override county Executive Rich Fitzgerald’s veto of a bill to ban fracking in county parks.
During a special meeting on Tuesday, the council voted 12-3 to place an indefinite ban on fracking in the county’s nine parks – Boyce, Deer Lakes, Harrison Hills Park, Hartwood Acres, North, Round Hill, Settlers Cabin, South and White Oak.
It is the first time that the Council has been successful in overriding Fitzgerald’s opposition to a bill in his three terms.
The three votes against the override were cast by Republicans Sam DeMarco and Suzanne Filiaggi along with Democrat Nick Futules, all of whom voted against the bill originally on July 5. The lone council member to change their vote was Bob Macey who cited the two parks located in his District 9 and the concerns of his constituents.
More than 40 speakers stepped to the microphone over two hours to voice their concerns about the veto. Bethany Hallam, the fracking ban bill co-sponsor, called this decision the easiest vote she has passed in her time on County Council.
“Nothing changed in the past 14 days about the nature of fracking, about the harmful practices of fracking, about the need, the want to preserve one tiny little space in our community,” Hallam said. “Yinz are fracking everywhere else. Can we please save this one little space for the enjoyment of county residents?”
“I don’t want to see our parks converted into industrial waste sites as these companies exploit and degrade them,” said Amanda Waxman, according to WESA-FM. “We deserve places where we can hike, bike and run without inhaling asthma-inducing air pollutants. We deserve places where we can swim without worrying about toxic runoff. We deserve our parks to be fracking-free.”
There were supporters of Fitzgerald’s veto. “Why are we chasing business away?” McKeesport’s Robert Johnson asked. “Fracking has been around for 60 to 70 years. We need the jobs and have the economic development.”
Fitzgerald originally vetoed the bill, stating “This bill does not do what its authors think it does. It does not prevent future leasing of natural gas extraction rights or even drilling activities within our parks. Any future legislation can simply repeal this one. It’s just propaganda to benefit their own political interests.”
He has referred to the drilling leases for Deer Lakes Park that were approved by council in May 2014, a decision that brought the county millions of dollars in royalties to date.