A map of shale gas wells in Western Pennsylvania shows thousands of sites all around Allegheny County and only a relative few within its borders.
Given its sweet spot in the still developing Marcellus Shale gas field, Allegheny County won’t always be the doughnut hole. Sooner or later, as the shale gas industry rebounds from its three-year slump, the county will become a bullseye.
But Doug Shields, a former Pittsburgh councilman and outreach liaison for Food & Water Watch, a national advocacy organization for healthy food and clean water, said many of the county’s municipalities aren’t ready.
Mr. Shields said his review of zoning ordinances in 130 Allegheny County municipalities found 56 with no zoning ordinance specific to oil and gas drilling and development, while another 30 have zoning rules that are outdated because they don’t follow either current state law or recent court decisions, or both.
Of the 56 municipalities without zoning that addresses oil and gas development, 31 already have acreage leased for gas extraction within their borders, according to the Allegheny County Lease Mapping Project developed by FracTracker Alliance, a nonprofit based in Camp Hill that maps and tracks risks related to oil and gas development.