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.

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