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Environment


Ohio Supreme Court drills down on the question of home rule, oil and gas
Justices press attorneys on all sides on whether the state or local community -- or both -- have a say in drilling
by WKSU's JEFF ST. CLAIR
and M.L. SCHULTZE


Reporter / Host
Jeff St. Clair
 
As drilling booms in eastern Ohio, so do questions of local control.
Download (WKSU Only)
In The Region:

Ohio Supreme Court justices have vigorously challenged attorneys over the power of state-level oil and gas drilling regulations to supersede local laws. Their questioning came during arguments today in a case brought by the Akron suburb of Munroe Falls against Beck Energy.

Beck got the state’s permission to drill on private property in 2011. The city sued, saying the company sidestepped local zoning and notification laws. In an exchange with Justice William O’Niell, Munroe Falls attorney Thomas Houlihan said cities have the right to impose zoning restrictions as they plan their communities, and the state and local levels should work together.

LISTEN: The great debate over local control and drilling

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     Houlihan: “I would disagree with your assessment that the oil and gas statute … says anything about preempting local zoning. It’s silent on local zoning…." 

     O’Neill: "I’m using the two words in the English language: 'exclusive' and 'location.' If the state is given exclusive control over the location of a building, a structure or a well, isn’t zoning gone?"

     Houlihan: "No your honor, because the language has to be read in context."

And that context, he says, includes constitutionally guaranteed home rule.

The state's attorney argued the Ohio Department of Natural Resources is solely empowered to regulate drilling, and the process includes safely locating wells in neighborhoods.

Pro- and anti-drilling forces see the Ohio case as potentially precedent-setting.

 

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