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City Drilling Ban Referendum Fails

A measure to ask Pittsburgh voters if Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling should be banned in the city seems to have finally failed.

The referendum bill was deemed invalid by the Allegheny County Law Department and County Elections Division, because it didn't make the August 9 deadline to add a question to the ballot this November.

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl neither signed nor vetoed it when it passed City Council on August 1, but he could legally wait until August 11 to do either. Thus Council could take no action to override the mayor at its Tuesday meeting, and the referendum deadline passed. Ravenstahl effectively killed the measure by taking no action on it.

"Because it is not a valid ordinance and not timely, it fails to meet the requirements of the Home Rule Charter and Optional Plans Law and any referendum question to amend the City's Home Rule Charter cannot be placed on the November 8, 2011 ballot," said County Elections Division Manager Mark Wolosik, in a written statement.

Members of City Council tried to argue that if the mayor did veto the bill on Thursday, they could override it; however, the County Law Department disagreed, saying the law does not recognize a "preemptive" veto override.