Ohio Appeals Court Rules That Local Municipalities Cannot Stop State-Permitted Drilling

In a decision that is likely to have far-reaching consequences, the Ohio Appeals Court (Ninth District) has ruled that the City of Munroe Falls cannot enforce local ordinances on drilling that are in conflict with state law giving sole permitting rights to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

While several communities in Ohio have been voting to ban or limit oil and gas drilling in their locality, the reality is that such local ordinances are illegal.  State law is clear about the authority to permit drilling resting with state agencies.  This latest ruling upholds that state authority.

Further, the ruling states that while municipalities can still establish ordinances on rights-of-way and excavations, they cannot enforce them in a way that discriminates against oil and gas drillers.

Here are some key points from the decision (thanks to Marcellus Drilling News for singling them out - read their article here*):
{¶74} With the state permit in hand, Beck Energy began drilling at the residence of Mr. Willingham. The city issued a Stop Work Order and sought to enjoin Beck Energy from drilling without first obtaining various permits from the city pursuant to its 11 ordinances. Stating “local communities retain a right to oversee [drilling] activities within their territory,” the trial court granted the city the injunctive relief it sought and ordered Beck Energy to comply with the ordinances cited by the city. As we have concluded in the foregoing analysis, the drilling ordinances (Ordinances 1329.03, 1329.04, 1329.05, and 1329.06) are in direct conflict with R.C. 1509.02 and therefore preempted by this state law. Moreover, the provision of the zoning ordinance (Ordinance 1163.02) cannot be applied to drilling activities as it is similarly in conflict with R.C. 1509.02. The city, however, may enforce ordinances governing rights-of-way and excavations (Ordinances 919.04, 919.05, 919.06, 919.07, 919.08, and 905.02), but cannot enforce these rights-of-way ordinances in a way that discriminates against, unfairly impedes, or obstructs oil and gas activities and operations.
{¶75} We therefore conclude the trial court abused its discretion by enjoining its drilling operations until Beck Energy has complied with all the ordinances cited by the city of Munroe Falls in its complaint.
{¶76} Therefore, we reverse and remand the matter to the trial court with instructions to enter judgment stating that Ordinances 1329.03, 1329.04, 1329.05, 1329.06, and 1163.02 are preempted by the state law and cannot be enforced against Beck Energy’s drilling activity. Beck Energy, however, must apply for pertinent permits in compliance with the ordinances governing rights-of-way and excavations (Ordinances 919.04, 919.05, 919.06, 919.07, 919.08, and 905.02), if its activity impacts in any manner the city’s streets.
Read the entire decision here:

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