University of Pittsburgh
March 25, 2011

University’s William Pitt Debating Union to Host April 6 Public Debate Titled “Should Pittsburgh Permit Marcellus Shale Drilling?”

Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH—The University of Pittsburgh’s William Pitt Debating Union will host a free public debate titled “Should Pittsburgh Permit Marcellus Shale Drilling?” from 6 to 8 p.m. April 6 in Parran Hall Auditorium, Room G-23, Graduate School of Public Health, 130 DeSoto St., Oakland. 

Arguing in favor of Marcellus Shale drilling will be Kathryn Zuberbuhler Klaber, president and executive director of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, and Jayson Myers, a Pitt junior majoring in history. Arguing in opposition will be Doug Shields, Pittsburgh City Council member and key sponsor of a drilling ban ordinance, and Jeff Kurr, a Pitt senior majoring in finance. 

In November 2010, Pittsburgh became the first city in Pennsylvania to ban natural gas drilling when City Council members voted unanimously to approve an ordinance that establishes an environmental “Bill of Rights,” including a citizen’s right to clean water and ecosystems capable of flourishing within the city. Pittsburgh sits on top of the Marcellus Shale, a rock formation that runs through parts of West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York. Valuable natural gas reserves are stored in the underbelly of the formation. Companies use what is called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” to drill through rock and retrieve the gas below. 

Those in favor of drilling argue that gas extraction can be done with minimal environmental impact and that it produces economic benefits for the city. The opposition claims that the hydraulic fracturing technology used to dig deep into the Marcellus Shale formation would contaminate drinking water and create other environmental hazards. 

A panel of scientists—including John Stolz, director of the Center for Environmental Research and Education and a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Duquesne University, and Radisav Vidic, William Kepler Whiteford Professor and Chair in Pitt’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering—will work with student debaters to shed light on technical aspects of the drilling. 

The debate is the fourth event in a new series of debates made possible by a generous gift from William Pitt Debating Union alumnus Marcella L. Finegold, who graduated in 1937 from Pitt’s College of Arts and Sciences

The debate also can be viewed via webstream at (scroll down to "William Pitt Debating Union" in the Presentation Catalog window panel). Parking for the event will be at Soldiers and Sailors Parking Garage, Bigelow Boulevard, Oakland, and will cost $5. For more information, contact Pitt communication professor Gordon Mitchell at 412-624-8531 or