Mayor Luke Ravenstahl has long argued against Pittsburgh's ban on Marcellus Shale drilling -- approved 9-0 by city council in 2010, and made law without his signature -- mostly because of the negative vibes it sends to the growing natural gas industry.
The ban sends "the message . . . we are essentially blocking an industry from investing in our City," he wrote last year, in opposition to an effort to write the ban into the city's charter.
There is evidence he was right.
It seemed odd that Oxford Development would call a major news conference yesterday to herald an "iconic" $238 million, 33-story skyscraper on Smithfield Street. . . or, you know, maybe just renovate the old building for office space.
The reason the developers have to have a backup plan is they haven't yet scored an anchor tenant. A big company new to the city that needs a home for its rapidly growing pool of employees. Like, say, a natural gas company.
They've talked to several such firms but the city's ban has been "an issue" in landing them, and comes up at the outset of every pitch to the giant energy firms, Oxford's CEO Steve Guy told the P-G's Mark Belko:
Mr. Guy said Oxford also has spoken to "numerous" energy companies about potentially locating in the tower, although he would not name which ones. Both Chevron and Shell Oil Co. are looking for more space in the region and are said to be considering Downtown among their options.
However, Mr. Guy said the city's ban on natural gas drilling, enacted by city council in 2010, has become an "issue" in those talks.
"It comes up at the commencement of every discussion with energy companies," Mr. Guy said. "The energy companies have just simply said we're not doing business in the city.
"We have to work through it, actually, because there's nothing we can do about it."
Lots more on Chevron, the ban and the irony of the former Gulf Oil moving back to Downtown Pittsburgh here and here from Chris Briem at Null Space.
Photo: Larry Roberts/PG. Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, left, and Oxford Development's chief operating officer Lou Dinardo (a long ago city employee and Public Safety director).