Wednesday, February 18, 2015

We stress the limited scope of the ruling...

An Ohio community cannot use its zoning laws to ban fracking because state law trumps its home rule stance, the Ohio Supreme Court decided Tuesday...

"It's a win for the oil and gas industry in this case, but I'm not sure that it actually answers the ultimate question of whether (state law) trumps all local ordinances that attempt to regulate oil and gas," said Matt Warnock, co-chairman of law firm Bricker & Eckler LLP's Shale Task Force.

...The dispute started when Ravenna-based Beck Energy prepared to drill a natural gas well on leased residential land in the town. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources approved a permit but the city sued, arguing Beck Energy violated the municipality's zoning and drilling rules.

But Beck Energy countered that Ohio's home-rule law allows local government to create ordinances only if they don't interfere with state laws.

The state Supreme Court agreed, upholding the judgment of the 9th District Court of Appeals.

"This is a classic licensing conflict under our home-rule precedent," the court wrote in its decision. "We have consistently held that a municipal-licensing ordinance conflicts with a state-licensing scheme if the 'local ordinance restricts an activity which a state license permits.' "

Three justices dissented, including Justice Judith Lanzinger, who argued the two can coexist.

"There is no need for the state to act as the thousand-pound gorilla, gobbling up exclusive authority over the oil and gas industry, leaving not even a banana peel of home rule for municipalities," she wrote in her dissent. "I would reverse the judgment of the court of appeals and remand to that court for further proceedings..."

Justice William O'Neill, another dissenter, wrote... "What the drilling industry has bought and paid for in campaign contributions they shall receive."

Emphasis mine.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

A Noble Undertaking

Cash in, cash out, cash money's on the cut.

Citigroup is one of three Wall Street banks attempting to keep hidden their practice of paying executives multimillion-dollar awards for entering government service...(c)ritics argue these “golden parachutes” ensure more financial insiders in policy positions and favorable treatment toward Wall Street...

The handouts recently received attention when Antonio Weiss, the former investment banker at Lazard now serving as counselor to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, acknowledged in financial disclosures that he would be paid $21 million in unvested income and deferred compensation upon exiting the company for a job in government. Weiss withdrew from consideration to become the undersecretary for domestic finance under pressure from financial reformers, but the counselor position—which does not require congressional confirmation—probably still entitles him to the $21 million. The terms of the award are part of a Lazard employee agreement that nobody has seen.

These payments are routine at major banks, several of which have explicit policies, found in filings with the SEC, outlining automatic awards for executives who rotate into government. Goldman Sachs offers “a lump sum cash payment” for government service, for example.