Today, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that the Home Rule clause of Ohio’s constitution does not give local governments the authority to supersede drilling activities that are permitted by the state. This decision specifically speaks to the various local ballot initiatives to ban fracking that activists have been pushing in Ohio, which have been costly to taxpayers.
The most recent ruling today involved a dispute between a drilling company and a municipality, the town of Monroe Falls. Just as a refresher, the state – the Ohio Department of Natural Resources – approved a permit for Beck Energy Corp. to drill a natural gas well. The city decided to sue, based on its argument that the operator violated the zoning and drilling rules set forth by Monroe Falls. The crux of the Ohio Supreme Court decision is this: the state, not local governments, control the regulation and oversight of oil and natural gas in Ohio.
According to Judge Judy French in the Slip Opinion No. 2015-Ohio-485,
“R.C. Chapter 1509 regulates oil and gas wells and production operations in Ohio. While it preserves certain powers for local governments, it gives the state government “sole and exclusive authority” to regulate the permitting, location, and spacing of oil and gas wells and production operations within the state. R.C. 1509.02. In this case, we decide whether the Home Rule Amendment to the Ohio Constitution grants to the city of Monroe Falls to[sic] power to enforce its own permitting scheme atop the state system. We hold that it does not.” (emphasis added)
As a reminder, in Ohio there have been several attempts by anti-fracking activists to get local governments to ban hydraulic fracturing and impose other local controls. Those attempts have been met with overwhelming opposition, such as the Community Bill of Rights in Youngstown, Ohio, which was rejected by voters on 4 separate occasions. Similar measures have also been soundly defeated in Ohio, such as in the ballot initiatives in Kent and Gates Mills. Further, Ohio isn’t the only state to come to a conclusion like this. Most recently, the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico ruled that a ban on drilling in Mora County, New Mexico was unconstitutional.
While some anti-fracking groups continue their misinformation campaign, today’s ruling by the Ohio Supreme Court is clear. This is certainly good news for Ohioans who will continue to reap the benefits of shale development, including the thousands of jobs, stronger local economies, and millions in new tax revenues going into local coffers.