DID City Council just make a rude gesture to the rest of Pennsylvania . . . one that involves a single finger?
That was our immediate reaction to a resolution passed yesterday about natural-gas drilling. Sponsored by Councilman Curtis Jones, the measure called for a statewide moratorium on gas extraction and also urged Philadelphia Gas Works to boycott fuel produced from the Marcellus Shale region. (Legally, PGW is required to purchase the cheapest gas possible.)
We share Jones' concern that our drinking water be protected from the byproducts of drilling, which requires blasting underground rock formations with millions of gallons of chemically treated water.
However, calling for a wholesale boycott is sending a fairly hostile message at a delicate time for Philadelphia's relationship with the rest of the state.
The resolution glosses over the positive impact of drilling in many rural communities. We're thinking of places deep in western Pennsylvania like Indiana County, where almost all new economic activity is being driven by mining the Marcellus Shale. A full-scale boycott could be viewed as an economic assault by Philadelphia on other parts of Pennsylvania.
That's a bad idea, especially since there was recently a huge shift in Harrisburg, with more people from western Pennsylvania in power than at any time in recent memory. Philadelphia should be careful about how we engage the rest of the state on a host of issues, including gas drilling.
We're not dismissing the negative impact of drilling. But we are concerned that by taking such a strong stance, Council might be inadvertently excluding Philadelphia from being part of the statewide conversation going forward.
A better approach? Find a compromise that acknowledges there is more to the state - and its interests - than just our own city. *