My co-worker Paula Schleis reported on a lawsuit involving a drilling company and the city of Munroe Falls in Summit County. It was a case that the industry was following closely, as were those pushing for more local control over drilling operations.
Here is Paula's story that ran on Saturday:
By Paula Schleis
Beacon Journal staff writer
Munroe Falls may not enforce some of its city ordinances with gas- and oil-well drillers because they are in conflict with state rules, an appeals court has decided.
The 9th District Ohio Court of Appeals overturned the 2011 decision of Summit County Common Pleas Judge Mary Margaret Rowlands, who had ruled Beck Energy Corp. needed to follow city rules required of all developers: apply for construction permits and zoning certificates, pay the necessary application fees and acquire a performance bond.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources had sided with Beck, which refused to apply for the permits, saying it had given the company permission to drill a gas well on a residential property in Munroe Falls and that was all the documentation needed.
The higher court ruled for the city on one item: Munroe Falls may continue to enforce ordinances dealing with rights-of-way, including streets, bridges and sidewalks, as long as they do not apply those laws in a way that discriminates against drillers.
The lawsuit stems from Beck’s effort to install a well on a private Munroe Falls Avenue property.
The Ravenna-based drilling company started to build a drive on the property for carrying equipment to the site, but Mayor Frank Larson and the city police department showed up with a stop-work order.
Larson said he was not trying to stop the drilling but to get Beck to collect the required permits for things like assuring roads give proper access to fire and police vehicles in an emergency, installing adequate fencing to keep pedestrians out of the construction area and regulating landscaping.
Beck refused to apply for the permits and performance bonds, saying the state’s approval was all it needed. The ODNR said its permits pre-empt local law.
"While this court recognizes and respects Ohio’s need for uniformity in oil and gas regulation throughout the state, local communities retain a right to oversee those operations within their territory," Rowlands said in her ruling.
It was not immediately clear if Beck still planned to drill at the Munroe Falls Avenue property or if the city expected to appeal the latest ruling.
Messages left for President David Beck, Larson and city Law Director Jack Morrison were not returned.
Chesapeake Energy Corp,the Oklahoma-based firm is the No. 1 driller in Ohio.
Rig Count Interactive Map by Baker Hughes, an energy services company.
Shale Sheet Fracking, a Youngstown Vindicator blog.
The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.
Earthjustice, a national eco-group.
People's Oil and Gas Collaborative-Ohio, a grass-roots group in Northeast Ohio.
Concerned Citizens of Medina County, a grass-roots group.
No Frack Ohio, a Columbus-based grass-roots group.
Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat by ProPublica, an online journalism site.
Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.
Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.