Ohio’s state supreme court ruled Tuesday that a local ban on hydraulic fracturing can not be used to block drilling activity that is permitted by the state.
The ruling resolved a lawsuit brought against Ohio-based Beck Energy Corporation by the city of Munroe Falls, a suburb of Akron.
Munroe Falls argued that Beck Energy ignored local ordinances when it received a permit from the state in 2011 to drill a conventional well on private propriety in the city.
The city won a court order to halt the company’s operations until Beck Energy complied with local zoning and oil and gas ordinances.
In a 4-3 decision the court ruled that the state has “sole and exclusive authority” to regulate the location of oil and gas wells, Reuters said.
“The issue before us is not whether the law should generally allow municipalities to have concurrent regulatory authority, but whether (the law) and Home Rule Amendment do allow for the kind of double license at issue here. They do not,” justice Judith French said.
The majority found that Munroe Falls’ municipal drilling restrictions were an exercise of police power and improperly prohibit drilling.
“This is an area which is, and should be, highly regulated. The question is not should it be regulated, the question is should it be regulated by people that have the expertise to regulate it or by the local officials who just simply don’t have that expertise,” Beck Energy attorney John Keller said.
The court’s decision was made by a slim majority and may not rule out further challenges from municipalities looking to regulate drilling in their towns.
“None of the reasons got a majority of votes, which could be carefully read by future courts that there’s still a role for local zoning in the oil and gas field. I’m hopeful that is the case,” Munroe Falls attorney Tom Houlihan said.