By Daniel Moore
Last week in eastern Ohio, where natural gas production in the Utica Shale has been booming, voters in three towns rejected ballot proposals to ban hydraulic fracturing. While Athens overwhelmingly passed a fracking ban, Gates Mills, Kent and Youngstown voted down their measures.
The ballot issues highlight the disparity in responses among local officials who are befuddled by the complicated legal baggage of prohibiting a practice that some say is solely regulated at a state level. Bans could legally embroil areas where drilling companies operate, especially with the Ohio Supreme Court soon to rule on the ability of local authorities to regulate fracking.
Local authority to regulate fracking is a central issue in the case that the Ohio Supreme Court is reviewing: Munroe Falls v. Beck Energy. In 2011, a state court backed the town’s right to zone and issue permits to the oil and gas drilling company. An appellate court in February sided with the company.
Oral arguments were heard by the state Supreme Court earlier this year.
The Ohio Oil and Gas Association is closely watching for a decision, said spokeswoman Penny Siepel. “Once that court case is decided, I think it will probably help … reaffirm that the state ultimately has control over the oil and gas industry,” Ms. Seipel said.
Shawn Bennett, senior vice president of the industry group, said his member companies answer solely to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
“These bans are, and will remain, without any teeth,” Mr. Bennett said. “When (companies) submit their permit, that permit will go to the division and the division will choose whether to accept or deny the permit.”Read full article