Ohio high court holds local ordinances preempted by state oil and gas regulations

Ohio high court holds local ordinances preempted by state oil and gas regulations

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Ohio [official website] on Tuesday ruled [opinion, PDF] in a 4-3 decision that local drilling and zoning regulations are preempted by state laws governing oil and gas drilling activities. In 2011 Beck Energy Corporation obtained a permit from the Ohio Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ODNR) [official website] in order to drill a well within the city limits of Munroe Falls, Ohio. The city obtained a court order to stop the company from operating within its limits until the company complied with local law, notably one zoning ordinance and four ordinances related to oil and gas drilling. In Tuesday’s opinion, the court ruled the local ordinances are not within a the city’s home rule powers [Court News Ohio report], which allow cities and counties to pass laws to govern themselves. The court referenced the purpose of a 2004 law [1509.02, text] passed by the Ohio General Assembly [official website] that established DCNR has exclusive authority [Columbus Dispatch report] to regulate all aspects of drilling activity. Because the local ordinances directly conflict with state-wide regulations, the court held the city of Munroe Falls could not enjoin the company from drilling when the proposed drilling activity complies with state regulations.

Fracking [JURIST backgrounder; news archive] has been at the center of much debate in the past decade, both within the US and internationally. Fracking is a controversial method of tapping natural gas deposits with highly pressurized water and other chemicals. In late January Scotland announced a moratorium [JURIST report] on the granting of permits for unconventional oil and gas extraction, including fracking, amid environmental and health concerns. Also in January an environmental conservation group filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] in Raleigh, North Carolina, seeking to vacate new rules adopted to regulate hydraulic fracturing in the state because the lawmaking panel that developed the rules was allegedly formed in violation of the state constitution. In December New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced [JURIST report] a statewide ban on hydraulic fracturing.