Develop PGH Bulletins updates you on the Pittsburgh region's economy, including close coverage of the Urban Redevelopment Authority, City Planning Commission and other important agencies. Please check back frequently, sign up for the Develop PGH newsletter and email email@example.com with questions, tips or story ideas.
12/4/20: Full jobs recovery depends on leisure rebound
As 2020's end approaches, the Pittsburgh region's unemployment rate is still significantly higher than it was at the year's start, and the economy won't fully recover until the leisure and hospitality sector rebounds, according to an Allegheny Conference on Community Development analysis.
The Southwestern Pennsylvania unemployment rate was around 5% in January. It spiked to 14% in late spring and early summer, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It has since declined to around half that level, the conference found in its monthly read on state employment data.
The region gained around 11,900 jobs in October. Still, that leaves a net loss of 86,000 jobs over 12 months.
Construction, healthcare and social assistance, and retail have rebounded smartly. But "the arts, entertainment and recreation sector has a continued erosion in employment since July," according to the conference, a business advocacy organization.
Leisure and hospitality has made up some of its losses, but "has struggled to rebound in the face of government restrictions, reluctant consumers and the virtual shutdown of all business travel," according to the conference analysis. "Until conditions permit a rebound in this sector, a full regional recovery will not occur."
11/25/20: Edgar Thomson drilling fight moving to court
A New Mexico company’s bid to frack on U.S. Steel’s land in North Versailles and East Pittsburgh is now in court following a Tuesday appeal filing.
Merrion Oil & Gas spent millions preparing to drill on the Edgar Thomson Works site, and the East Pittsburgh Zoning Hearing Board has misinterpreted that borough’s code, according to the company’s Notice of Land Use Appeal filed in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas.
The timeline: In December 2017, East Pittsburgh council voted to approve Merrion’s zoning application to conduct drilling-related activities on a sliver of the borough’s land. The actual well sites would be in North Versailles.
In January 2020, the borough council rescinded that approval, arguing that the code allowed for that reversal because the company had not started drilling activity within two years.
Merrion asked the borough’s Zoning Hearing Board to reverse council’s action, but last month the board issued a ruling upholding the rescission.
The company argues in its appeal that in 2018 and 2019, it worked on surveys, core borings and other tests on the site, while working through the Department of Environmental Protection [DEP] permitting process, spending nearly $2.7 million.
Merrion also argues that the rescission provision in the borough's zoning ordinance applies to 45 specified conditional uses of property, but does not apply to oil and gas well sites.
The appeal, authored by attorney Harlan Stone, requests reversal of the Zoning Hearing Board's decision, so the company can pursue drilling-related work on the site. It has not yet been assigned to a judge.
Merrion’s plans would still need the approval of the DEP, which has not yet signed off.
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