The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

World, nation, state

February 27, 2014

Ohio justices hear local drilling rules dispute

COLUMBUS — Ohio Supreme Court justices vigorously challenged attorneys on Wednesday over the power of state-level oil and gas drilling regulations to supersede local zoning laws.

One justice asked whether Ohio’s regulatory scheme violates communities’ constitutional home rule protections, while another said an inability for cities to challenge state-issued drilling permits gives Ohio’s natural resources director seemingly god-like sway.

The questioning came in a case brought by the Akron suburb of Munroe Falls against Beck Energy Corp. The lawsuit is being closely monitored by both pro- and anti-drilling forces for its potential impact on community efforts to block hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, used by the industry to capture gas or oil from underground shale. A court decision is expected in a few months.

The energy company in this case 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 by not involving the city in the process.

Deputy Solicitor Peter Glenn-Applegate, the state’s attorney, told the court Ohio’s natural resources director was empowered in 2004 to regulate drilling and that a permit can’t be gained without meeting established setbacks, fencing and other siting requirements.

He and Beck’s attorney, John Keller, argued that state lawmakers made the decision to centralize authority over drilling at the state level after a period of decades when local governments were in charge.

“That was a conscious decision by the General Assembly to eliminate the dual regulation as to the location of wells,” Keller said.

Justice Paul Pfeifer drew a distinction between that process and the locating of windmills, which goes through a commission. “For those who object there’s no place to go. ... The director of natural resources is God in this case,” he said.

Glenn-Applegate said although Ohio citizens can’t directly challenge drilling permits issued by the state, they have a remedy through the courts if they feel the natural resources director failed to adequately protect public health and safety.

Munroe Falls attorney Thomas Houlihan argued that cities have the right to impose zoning restrictions as they plan their communities. He told the court the two levels of government can and should work together.

The law says Ohio has sole and exclusive authority to regulate the location of wells, which Houlihan said is different from determining their location.

“If the state seeks to pre-empt local zoning, it can attempt to do so, but it must do so with express language,” he said.

Justice William O’Neill questioned why Houlihan wasn’t going further with this legal argument to challenge Ohio’s regulatory setup as a violation of constitutional protections of home rule.

“If the state is given exclusive control over the location of a building, a structure, or a well, isn’t zoning gone?” he asked.

Houlihan kept his arguments focused on the ability of state and local laws to work in tandem, citing similar shared authority in other drilling states such as California, Oklahoma and Texas.

In New York, where fracking isn’t yet legal and many communities have instituted pre-emptive bans, and in Pennsylvania, where fracking is widespread, similar cases have been decided in favor of shared regulation, with municipalities overseeing such things as land use and aesthetics and the state overseeing safety and construction.

Beck said in court filings that Ohio’s 2004 law was intended “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 company’s lawyers said the only area of Munroe Falls that’s zoned for industrial development is the tiny corner of a small airport that was not conducive to oil and gas development.

1
Text Only
World, nation, state
  • Study finds 35 percent in U.S. facing debt collectors

    More than 35 percent of Americans have debts and unpaid bills that have been reported to collection agencies, according to a study released Tuesday by the Urban Institute.

    July 30, 2014

  • U.S. blasts Israel for Kerry criticism

    The Obama administration pushed back strongly Monday at a torrent of Israeli criticism over Secretary of State John Kerry’s latest bid to secure a cease-fire with Hamas, accusing some in Israel of launching a “misinformation campaign” against the top American diplomat.

    July 29, 2014

  • Outlook on Medicare finances improves

    Medicare’s finances are looking brighter, the government said Monday. The program’s giant hospital trust fund won’t be exhausted until 2030 — four years later than last year’s estimate.

    July 29, 2014

  • Plan to simplify 2015 health renewals may backfire

    If you have health insurance on your job, you probably don’t give much thought to each year’s renewal. But make the same assumption in one of the new health law plans, and it could lead to costly surprises.

    July 28, 2014

  • Hospital shooting suspect charged with murder

    A man accused of fatally shooting his caseworker and grazing his psychiatrist at a suburban Philadelphia hospital complex before the doctor returned fire has been charged with murder.

    July 28, 2014

  • Man seeks video of Oklahoma City bombing

    One man’s quest to explain his brother’s mysterious jail cell death 19 years ago has rekindled long-dormant questions about whether others were involved in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

    July 28, 2014

  • Bill in Congress to help veterans with PTSD

    A group of lawmakers have joined together to help veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Post Traumatic Brain Injury (PTBI) and other war injuries get speedy medical treatment — and avoid Veteran’s Administration bureaucracy and Department of Defense lack of accountability.

    July 28, 2014

  • U.S.: Russia has fired rockets into Ukraine

    Stepping up pressure on Moscow, the U.S. on Sunday released satellite images it says show that rockets have been fired from Russia into neighboring eastern Ukraine and that heavy artillery for separatists also has crossed the border.

    July 28, 2014

  • U.S. says Russia is firing across border into Ukraine

    Russia is launching artillery attacks from its soil on Ukrainian troops and preparing to move heavier weaponry across the border, the U.S. and Ukraine charged Friday in what appeared to be an ominous escalation of the crisis.

    July 25, 2014

  • Gaza sides agree to lull but truce efforts stall

     Israel-Hamas fighting looked headed for escalation after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry failed Friday to broker a weeklong truce as a first step toward a broader deal and Israel’s defense minister warned Israel might soon expand its Gaza ground operation “significantly.”

    July 25, 2014

House Ads
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
AP Video