Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Group Opposed to Drilling Made Itself Seen, Heard Protect Our Parks Members Highly Visible in Bright Green Scarves

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Group Opposed to Drilling Made Itself Seen, Heard Protect Our Parks Members Highly Visible in Bright Green Scarves

Article excerpt

They were there long before the topic of drilling for natural gas beneath Deer Lakes Park even made it to Allegheny County Council's agenda.

In large numbers, and eventually in the bright green scarves that became their signature, members of the group Protect Our Parks marched to a podium in the Allegheny County Courthouse, urging council to vote no on a proposal to lease the gas rights beneath the park.

Their monthslong odyssey closed a chapter last week, when nine council members voted yes, five voted no and one abstained on a resolution that prompted a loud and raucous outcry from some members of the parks group, many of whom shouted "shame" after the vote.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald on Monday signed the legislation and said the county will enter into a lease with Range Resources that will yield a $4.7 million bonus payment, $3 million to a parks improvement fund and 18 percent in royalties in exchange for giving Range the rights to extract the gas beneath the park.

For Protect Our Parks members, had all the time and effort and late nights been worth it?

"Absolutely," said Terri Supowitz of Wilkinsburg.

"We've absolutely had an effect here," said Mel Packer, a Point Breeze member of the group. "We've put it on the agenda. Not just the county council agenda -- on the public agenda."

Although the vote is over, members said the work of Protect Our Parks is not. The group plans to meet today to discuss issues, including whether to continue attending council meetings and the possibility of legal action.

"This is definitely not over," Ms. Supowitz said.

The movement that led to the group's formation began in 2010, when anti-fracking activism grew surrounding the city of Pittsburgh's ban on the practice, Mr. Packer said. About a year ago, Mr. Fitzgerald told council that the county would seek bids to drill beneath Deer Lakes Park.

What emerged after that announcement was Protect Our Parks, a group of individuals, existing environmental organizations and grass- roots groups. Members began attending county council's twice- monthly meetings starting around August, with a core group of a few dozen. …

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