Allegheny County Council

Allegheny County Council on Tuesday joined the chorus of voices calling on the state Legislature to stop bills that would amend the state constitution and give lawmakers the right to decide what qualifies an organization for tax-exempt, public charity status.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Despite passionate pleas from local activists, Allegheny County Council on Tuesday voted down a measure that would have placed a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in county parks for the next two years.

The bill was written and introduced into Council by the residents themselves, using a provision of the county’s charter that has never actually been put into practice. Activists with the group Protect our Parks gathered nearly 2,000 signatures, well beyond the 500 signatures required to put the bill before Council.

"Protect Our Parks" Fights Fracking in Allegheny County Parks

Feb 2, 2015
Marcellus Protest / Flickr

This Tuesday, the Allegheny County Council is scheduled to vote on an ordinance to put a 2-year moratorium on further fracking in county parks.

The ordinance was introduced by the volunteer organization Protect Our Parks. Joining us in Studio A are Joni Rabinowitz and John Detwiler, volunteers with the organization.

The office of Allegheny County executive Rich Fitzgerald said that he would veto any legislation related to a moratorium on fracking in county parks.

His office issued the following statement:

"The effort being led by Protect Our Parks is similar to legislation that was voted on previously and was defeated by Council. If such legislation were to pass, the Executive would veto it. He believes that blanket legislation sends a bad message to the industry and is a bad precedent. Each opportunity should be considered on a case by case basis. In the case of the Deer Lakes Park proposal, we were able to enter a lease that extends environmental protections to those communities that would not have been possible otherwise. That being said, the Executive has indicated that he has no intent of considering other drilling opportunities in the county at this time. He wants to see how the two current drilling operations will play out before moving forward with anything else." 

John Detwiler talks about why Protect Our Parks wants to do away with fracking in the county parks: 

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald presented an $832.9 million 2015 operating budget to County Council at their meeting Tuesday evening, along with a $79.9 million capital budget.

Among the highlights, according to Fitzgerald, is the lack of a real estate millage increase for the 13th time in 14 years.

Fitzgerald linked that millage stasis to county bonds that were refinanced over the last two years.

Flickr user Kevin Dooley

Despite an impassioned speech from Republican Allegheny County Councilwoman Sue Means, an initiative to place the words “In God We Trust” above the Bill of Rights in Council Chambers failed Tuesday night.

Six members of Council voted for the bill, while eight voted against it. A bill needs eight affirmative votes to pass.

Tucked away in Allegheny County’s administrative code is a rule saying that all bills introduced in County Council must be voted upon within 90 days.

In contrast, the rules of Allegheny County Council state that bills can only be pulled from committee and put on the council’s agenda for a final vote if they get a two-thirds affirmative majority in committee within 60 days of being introduced.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

In a heated meeting that lasted more than seven hours and included more than four hours of public comment, members of Allegheny County Council early Wednesday morning approved a lease agreement to drill for natural gas underneath Deer Lakes Park.

Allegheny County Council is set to vote Tuesday on whether to drill for natural gas underneath Deer Lakes Park.

The controversial resolution would allow Range Resources, in cooperation with Huntley & Huntley, to perform hydraulic fracturing under the park, provided that no drilling activities actually occur within the park.

County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said if the resolution passes, the county will receive around $7.7 million up front and an ongoing 18 percent royalty on the value of gas extracted.

Allegheny County Council's Parks Committee has voted 4-1 to have the full council vote next week on a proposal to drill for natural gas under a Pittsburgh-area park.

Wednesday's vote means the 15-member body will vote next Tuesday on a proposal to Range Resources and Huntley & Huntley to drill beneath 1,180-acre Deer Lakes Park from well sites on neighboring private properties.

The proposal includes a $4.7 million bonus for the county, a $3 million donation to a park improvement fund and 18 percent royalties that county officials estimate would generate $3 million.

One Etna resident thinks Allegheny County Councilman Nicholas Futules (D-Oakmont) should not be a part of the discussion about fracking under Deer Lakes Park.

Tim Ludwig, a Protect Our Parks member, has filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission.

He wants the Commission to force Futules to recuse himself from discussing or voting on the proposed extraction of natural gas underneath the 1,180-acre park.

Members of the Allegheny County Council heard testimony for and against a proposal to drill for natural gas under a Pittsburgh-area park.

The council is considering a proposal to allow Range Resources and Huntley & Huntley to drill beneath 1,180-acre Deer Lakes Park from well sites on neighboring properties.

Officials say the plan would mean millions of dollars for the county and a park improvement fund.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald delivered his quarterly state of the county address Tuesday night and had plenty of praise for county departments.

Fitzgerald acknowledged public works for its handling of the roughest winter weather in recent memory, the health department for its successful efforts to improve air quality in the county and the medical examiner’s Office for a recent national award it received for ballistics work.

Allegheny County Councilman Bill Robinson (D-Hill District) is asking for $10 million to $15 million in capital funds from the city and county to bail out the financially strapped August Wilson Center for African American Culture.

About $7 million would be used to pay off the center’s unpaid bills, including its mortgage, and keep the facility, which is facing liquidation. The legislation was introduced in County Council by Robinson who did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

The voters of Allegheny County are sending three new members to County Council, while four incumbents were able to hold onto their seats on Election Day, leaving the body with 10 Democrats and five Republicans.

Republican Tom Baker won the District 1 Council seat over Democrat Daniel A. McClain Jr. and Constitution Party candidate Jim Barr, taking 50 percent of the vote. Current District 1 Councilman Matt Drozd was defeated by Baker in a primary fight.

After giving his victory speech around 10 p.m., Baker said he was “elated” over the win.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and County Councilman Bill Robinson (D-Hill District) are butting heads over access to proposals from energy companies to drill underneath Deer Lakes Park.

Robinson sent a letter to Fitzgerald asking that he make proposals submitted to the county last week public. Fitzgerald believes negotiations need to be conducted privately, and opening the discussion to the 15-member council could muddle the project’s success.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald presented his 2014 budget to the County Council Tuesday evening.

Fitzgerald was visibly proud of the fact that Allegheny County will not be increasing property taxes in the county for the 12th time in 13 years.

He said the stabilized millage has contributed to the region’s success over the past few years.

Ferlo Calls for Fracking Moratorium in PA

Sep 18, 2013

When lawmakers return to Harrisburg next week they will be faced with a new proposal to put a moratorium on new permits for hydraulic fracturing. 

State Sen. Jim Ferlo (D-Allegheny) announced that he is introducing legislation during a news conference at the Allegheny County Courthouse Wednesday.

Senate Bill 1100 would also create a commission to analyze the agricultural, economic, environmental and social effects of Marcellus Shale drilling.

Nothing has been decided yet, but Allegheny County Council is considering an offer to develop natural gas found under Deer Lakes Park.

A new group made up of several grass roots organizations is planning to urge the group to say “no.” Members of Protect Our Parks will deliver their message at Tuesday’s County Council meeting.

90.5 WESA / 90.5 WESA

  Happy Monday! 90.5 WESA reporter, Noah Brode gives us our weekly update on Pittsburgh City Council.  More in the ongoing discussions of police fees for secondary detail work, funding for new police vehicles, and healthcare eligibility for dependents of city employees have all been major topics of discussion.  Noah also gives us reaction to County Council's decision last week to allow only lawyers to represent citizens in property reassessment appeals cases.

The Allegheny County Council voted on Tuesday night to nix a few controversial changes that a county governing board had made to the property assessment appeals process.

The Board of Property Assessment and Review (BPAR) had changed its regulations in mid-March to allow only attorneys to represent property owners appealing reassessments, rather than certified appraisers, realtors and other professionals.

Real estate professionals came out in force Tuesday to denounce the BPAR revisions.

Corey Seeman/Flickr

The Allegheny County Council has given approval to a contract to drill for natural gas and oil at Pittsburgh International Airport.  Council voted 9-4 with one abstention Tuesday night to approve the contract with Consol Energy Inc.

The deal comes with a $50 million up front signing bonus.  Once Consol starts drilling it will give the county 18% of the revenue generated by production at the site.  It has been estimated that could amount to as much as $450 million over the next 20 years.