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City Drilling Ban Referendum Falters

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl will abstain from signing a bill that calls for a voter referendum on banning Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling.

But that's not stopping City Council from attempting to go through with the ballot question anyway.

The bill, passed by Council on August 1, will become law without the Mayor's signature after ten days. But August 9 is the last day a referendum can be added to the November ballot, so it seems that the measure has effectively failed to make it to this year's polls.

However, Councilman Doug Shields said he's trying to get "interim approval" of the bill from the Allegheny County Elections Division.

"It's a question or not whether the Bureau of Elections would accept an interim approval, given the fact that the mayor has stated in writing that he is not going to veto the bill," said Shields.

Elections Division Manager Mark Wolosik said today he'd refer questions about the referendum to the County Law Department.

That referral may end this last-ditch effort to get the question on the November ballot.

The referendum is meant to add a prohibition on shale drilling to Pittsburgh's Home Rule Charter, making it much more difficult to overturn by legislative means.