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Ohio Court Rules State Oil and Gas Statutes Trump Local Regulations on Fracking

September 06, 2013

The Ohio Ninth District Court of Appeals recently ruled that state oil and gas statutes preempted local ordinances attempting to regulate hydraulic fracking. State ex rel. Morrison v. Beck Energy Corp., Sum. Cty. Appl . No 25953, 2013-Ohio-356, at *P76 (Feb. 6, 2013). In Morrison, Beck Energy (Beck) applied for and received drilling permits for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources prior to drilling a well in Munroe Falls, Ohio, but did not obtain drilling, zoning, and construction permits required by city ordinances. The city obtained an injunction from the Summit County Court of Common Pleas when Beck began drilling, which barred Beck from continuing operations within the city until it complied with 11 different city ordinances.

The Ninth District overturned the injunction and held that a number of the ordinances were preempted by Ohio’s oil and gas drilling statutes, primarily R.C. 1509.02, which provides in relevant part that “[t]he regulation of oil and gas activities is a matter of general statewide interest that requires uniform statewide regulation, and this chapter … constitutes a comprehensive plan with respect to all aspects of the locating, drilling, well stimulation, completing, and operating of oil and gas wells within the state…, including permitting related to those activities.”

The city unsuccessfully attempted to avoid this statute by arguing the “home-rule” provision in Ohio’s Constitution reserved regulatory authority to the city. The court held that the city drilling and zoning ordinances were preempted because they were in conflict with the state statute. The Ninth District did, however, uphold the right-of-way ordinances, so long as they do not discriminate against or obstruct oil and gas activities.

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