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Proposal to drill beneath Deer Lakes Park raises questions of safety, government procedure 

"We need a lot more research into the long-term health risks before we start drilling under our public parks."

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Robinson says he worries that Fitzgerald's influence has been keeping the bill from coming forward for debate. "This council is made up of grown men and women capable of making their own decisions," Robinson says. "We must be given the information it needs to make an informed choice, and this process must be allowed to continue without interference."

For his part, Fitzgerald acknowledges that "It's no secret that I don't support that bill." But Martoni says Fitzgerald has not "applied any pressure whatsoever" regarding Daly Danko's legislation. Martoni says he plans to bring the measure forward for discussion after he attends a Nov. 25-26 symposium on shale gas being held at Duquesne University.

"I just want to get the facts," Martoni says. "If we drill under the parks from outside, what harm will it do? I don't know. Some say it won't cause any, and some say it will."

If the bill is not given a committee hearing within 60 days, Robinson says procedural maneuvers can pull the bill out of the committee and bring it before the full council for discussion.

That deadline has not passed, and Daly Danko says she is still hopeful that her measure will be brought up for discussion through the typical process.

"I think there are people who are in favor of drilling generally, but are still against the idea about drilling on or near our parks," Daly Danko says. If drilling beneath parks were put on a ballot before voters, she predicts, "it would overwhelmingly fail."

Mel Packer, an environmental activist with the group Marcellus Protest, says he doesn't feel Daly Danko's legislation goes far enough, but says "at least it's a start."

"It doesn't ban fracking: It simply says, ‘Let's hold on for three years when it comes to county parks,'" Packer continues. "I believe in three years we are going to see that fracking is a much more dangerous endeavor than [drilling advocates] want to believe."

Packer says he fears that Fitzgerald is interfering with the bill's process to make the bill go away. "I think he has the notion that he's the county executor, not the county executive," Packer says. "We all saw from his campaign contributions that he owes a lot to these businesses for getting him elected." (During the 2011 campaign for county executive, a memo surfaced in which Fitzgerald pleaded with drillers for financial support.)

Packer says that as long as a drilling proposal is before county councilors, they can expect to hear from concerned citizens. And the citizens signing on to this battle, he says, aren't just the usual anti-fracking protesters like himself.

"When the county decided to drill in county parks, they hit a raw nerve with people," Packer says. "It's like drilling in their backyards. ... And at the end of the day, people like Kathryn Strang and her family speaking up are the ones who will ultimately make the difference in this fight."

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