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Oral Arguments Set for Ohio Home Rule Case

The Ohio Supreme Court plans to hear oral arguments in a case that for the first time challenges a controversial law passed by state legislators in 2004 that gave the Ohio Department of Natural Resources sole authority to permit and regulate oil and gas drilling.

The high court scheduled oral arguments for Feb. 26, allotting each side 15 minutes to discuss their positions in the case (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). The case originated at the trial court level in 2011 in Summit County after the northeastern city of Munroe Falls filed a complaint against Beck Energy Corp.

The city alleged that after the company had started to drill on private property there, it failed to file for local drilling permits and did not comply with zoning and right-of-way ordinances.

The trial court ruled in favor of Munroe Falls and Beck Energy appealed to the Ninth District Court of Appeals in Akron, which overturned the lower court's ruling. The state’s high court agreed in June to hear the case (see Shale Daily, June 24).

The case challenges Ohio's House Bill 278, which limits local government authority and ability to restrict drilling. The matter has served as a rallying cry for the industry's opponents, which believe "home rule" should be restored and localities should be empowered to decide where and how drilling occurs.

Oral arguments would be heard just months after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court heard a challenge to that state's most comprehensive oil and gas law, Act 13. On Dec. 19, the Pennsylvania high court struck down a key aspect of the legislation and gave municipalities more authority to enforce local zoning ordinances (see Shale Daily, Dec. 20).

The Ohio case has brought forward a number of parties that have filed friend-of-the-court briefs, with Herbal Sage, High Bottom Farm and Hyacinth Bean Florist supporting Munroe Falls on one side and that include the American Petroleum Institute and the Ohio Chamber of Commerce supporting Beck Energy's cause.

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