Shale Daily / NGI All News Access

Supreme Court of Ohio Will Hear Appeal of 'Home Rule' Case

The Supreme Court of Ohio has agreed to hear an appeal in a case involving local ordinances, or "home rule" laws, that pits a Utica Shale driller against a Summit County municipality that had tried to shut down the driller's operations.

Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor said Wednesday the high court had agreed to hear the dispute between the City of Munroe Falls and Beck Energy Corp.

"Upon consideration of the jurisdictional memoranda filed in this case, the court accepts the appeal," O'Connor said. "The clerk shall issue an order for the transmittal of the record from the Court of Appeals for Summit County, and the parties shall brief this case in accordance with the Rules of Practice of the Supreme Court of Ohio."

A separate order issued Wednesday stipulated that the record be transmitted to the clerk's office within 20 days.

Last February, the Ninth Appellate District Court sided with Beck, stating that state laws regulating the oil and natural gas industry preempt local ordinances, and ordered a lower court to reverse its May 2011 ruling in favor of Munroe Falls (see Shale Daily, Feb. 8). Earlier in 2011, the city had ordered Beck to stop work on a natural gas well and alleged that the company had violated several local ordinances.

The appellate court had ruled that the city had no authority to require a public hearing before the issuance of a drilling permit, and that the city's zoning ordinances interfered with state permits.

Court records show Munroe Falls filed for an appeal on March 22. "This case is one of great public or general interest and involved a substantial constitutional question," wrote Jack Morrison Jr., Thomas Saxer and Thomas Houlihan, attorneys with the firm Amer Cunningham Co. LPA, which represents the city.

Home rule is also being debated in New York and Pennsylvania. Last year in New York, the State Assembly considered bill A3245, which would empower localities to regulate oil and gas drilling and mining activities (see Shale Daily, Jan 10, 2012). Meanwhile, Pennsylvania's omnibus Marcellus Shale law, Act 13, gave local governments the power to impose a 15-year impact fee on unconventional gas wells in exchange for adopting state zoning rules (see Shale Daily, Feb. 15, 2012).

Several grassroots organizations are lobbying the state government to grant local governments home rule powers, which they could then use to regulate oil and gas activities (see Shale Daily, Sept. 5, 2012). Industry groups, including the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, oppose the idea.

The case is State of Ohio ex rel. Jack Morrison Jr., Law Director City of Munroe Falls, Ohio, et al. v. Beck Energy Corp. et al. (No. 2013-0465).

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