The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled that local municipalities cannot regulate hydraulic fracking on their own. The decision renders “all aspects” of oil and gas drilling to state oversight.
The 4-3 decision involved the case of Munroe Falls, a suburb of Akron, which in 2011 used its local autonomy to oppose a state-granted drilling permit. Cities including Athens, Oberlin and Mansfield passed similar laws that are ineffective after the court decision.
Many of Ohio’s local officials assert they should have the authority to enact such regulations, particularly when the health and safety of their residents may be at risk.
Yet the court argued that such ordinances conflict with the state’s “exclusive authority” over drilling, established in a 2004 law. Attorneys for Beck Energy, the company granted permission to drill in Munroe Falls, argued said that law is in place “to end the confusion, inefficiency and delays under the earlier patchwork of local ordinances, and to ensure that Ohio’s oil and gas resources are developed on a uniform statewide basis.”
The Ohio Supreme Court’s dissenting opinion pointed to corporate overreach and political graft in the state’s legislative process. ”Let’s be clear here,” Justice William O’Neill wrote in his opinion. “The Ohio General Assembly has created a zookeeper to feed the elephant in the living room. What the drilling industry has bought and paid for in campaign contributions they shall receive. The oil and gas industry has gotten its way, and local control of drilling-location decisions has been unceremoniously taken away from the citizens of Ohio.”
State courts in Colorado and New Mexico have made similar rulings in favor of state control over fracking, while New York and Pennsylvania have upheld some municipal bans on such mining.
Lindsay Abrams, “Ohio Supreme Court Strikes Down Local Fracking Bans,” Salon.com, February 17, 2015, http://www.salon.com/2015/02/17/ohio_supreme_court_strikes_down_local_fracking_bans/.
Timothy Cama, “Ohio Court Strikes Down Local Fracking Bans,” The Hill, February 17, 2015, http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/232945-ohio-court-strikes-down-local-fracking-bans
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