Onorato Reveals that Natural-Gas Referendum Could be Blocked by “Legal Issues”
Legal concerns were raised on Wednesday by Dan Onorato, the Allegheny County Executive, on the city’s planned referendum regarding natural gas production. He said that the issues may be grave enough to prevent the question from being shown on the November ballot.
Mr. Onorato revealed that elections officials and county lawyers are currently going over the legislation authorizing the referendum that was passed by the Pittsburgh City Council Monday despite objections coming from the law department of the city.
In a statement given, Mr. Onorato said, “Their preliminary review indicates significant legal issues that would prevent the elections department from placing the question on the ballot.”
“While the law and elections departments have only conducted a cursory review thus far, I have serious concerns over the legality of placing this referendum on the ballot. I look forward to receiving their formal analysis,” said Mr. Onorato.
He did not give any specifics about the legal concerns he mentioned, and he was not available for additional comments. Judi McNeil, Mr. Onorato’s spokeswoman, said that she could not provide any information about the legal concerns.
This revelation came on the second day of the annual August recess of the council.
Doug Shields, one of the city’s Councilmen and the sponsor of the referendum, said that he is not surprised Mr. Onorato is currently “looking for any legal means possible” in order for the referendum to be prevented. He observed that Mr. Onorato has declared his support for the gas industry.
Another referendum supporter, City Council President Darlene Harris, stated that she sees no legal problem in allowing the public’s voice to be heard on a very important issue.