Jan 23, 2011

No Fracking Gas for Philly!

Philadelphia officials on Tuesday directed a city utility not to buy natural gas from the Marcellus Shale until more is known about the safety of the hydraulic fracturing technique used to extract it.

With its largely symbolic gesture, Philadelphia becomes the first major U.S. city to refuse to buy natural gas obtained by the controversial method of hydraulic fracturing, said Philadelphia Councilman Curtis Jones, who sponsored the measure.

The city's Gas Commission, a regulatory body that oversees Philadelphia Gas Works, approved a City Council report that preemptively requires the city to avoid any purchases of gas from the Marcellus, a major gas field underlying about two-thirds of Pennsylvania and parts of surrounding states.

The process known as "fracking" involves blasting a mixture of chemicals, sand and water deep underground to fracture shale formations, allowing natural gas to escape. Philadelphia officials are concerned that toxic chemicals used in fracking may contaminate the Delaware River watershed that supplies city water.

"There is a very significant issue for Philadelphia because it directly affects the watershed from which the city draws its drinking water," said Philip Bertocci, a public advocate who represents residential customers of Philadelphia Gas Works.

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