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Ohio City in Legal Battle Repeals Oil/Gas Drilling Ordinances

The northeastern Ohio city of Munroe Falls has repealed drilling ordinances that landed it at the center of a legal battle regarding the conflicts between local zoning and the state's preemptive regulatory authority over the oil and gas industry.

In February, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled against the city, which had ordered conventional driller Beck Energy Corp. to cease development on private property after it failed to file for local drilling permits and did not comply with zoning and right-of-way ordinances (see Shale Daily, Feb. 17). The justices ruled that the city's drilling ordinances were an exercise of police power in direct conflict with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources "sole and exclusive authority to regulate the permitting, location and spacing of oil and gas wells and production operations," under the state’s Revised Code 1509.

The city council voted unanimously April 21 to repeal the ordinances. City Law Director Jack Morrison said the rules are pointless because they can't be enforced after the high court’s ruling. Although RC 1509 preserves some regulatory powers granted to local governments under state law, it expressly prohibits them from obstructing oil and gas operations.

Built into Munroe Falls' zoning ordinances for oil and gas development was a permitting provision that Ohio Supreme Court said conflicted with the state's regulatory role. The permitting provision required an applicant to pay a fee of $800 and deposit $2,000 for a performance bond at the time of filing, and it required a public hearing. If the stipulations were violated, an applicant could be fined or imprisoned.

Munroe Falls is in Summit County, where no Utica Shale wells have been drilled or permitted. Privately held Beck Energy primarily targets the shallower Clinton Sandstone. Some of its wells are in Cleveland suburbs, on golf courses, church properties and within the city limits of many other communities.

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