Court Upholds Ohio's Power To Regulate Oil, Gas Drilling
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Certain local zoning laws aimed at limiting fracking can't be used to circumvent the state's authority over oil and gas drilling, a fiercely divided Ohio Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.
In a 4-3 decision with three written dissents, the high court said that the home rule clause of Ohio's constitution doesn't allow a municipality to block drilling activities otherwise permitted by the state.
The decision came in a case brought by the Akron suburb of Munroe Falls against Beck Energy Corp. over a 2004 state law that gives Ohio "sole and exclusive authority" to regulate the location of wells.
Beck received a state-required permit from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources in 2011 to drill a traditional well on private property in Munroe Falls. The city sued, saying the company illegally sidestepped local ordinances.
The lawsuit has been closely watched nationally, raising a question in cities and towns where lucrative oil and gas is trapped in underground shale: Can regulations put in place by states eager for the jobs and tax revenues that come with drilling trump local restrictions on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, that communities are enacting to protect against haphazard development.
Writing for the court's majority, Justice Judith French said, "The issue before us is not whether the law should generally allow municipalities to have concurrent regulatory authority, but whether (the law) and Home Rule Amendment do allow for the kind of double license at issue here. They do not."
Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor and Justice Sharon Kennedy joined her in determining that Munroe Falls' particular drilling restrictions constituted an exercise of police power — not the local self-government that's protected under home rule.
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