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Ohio Utica Shale

Appeals court overturns 2011 decision that said driller must follow local rules

By Bob Downing Published: February 9, 2013

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.

Rowlands disagreed.

"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.

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Utica and Marcellus shale web sites

Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management State agency Web site.

ODNR Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management. State drilling permits. List is updated weekly.

ODNR Division of Geological Survey.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Ohio State University Extension.

Ohio Farm Bureau.

Ohio Oil and Gas Association, a Granville-based group that represents 1,500 Ohio energy-related companies.

Ohio Oil & Gas Energy Education Program.

Energy In Depth, a trade group.

Marcellus and Utica Shale Resource Center by Ohio law firm Bricker & Eckler.

Utica Shale, a compilation of Utica shale activities.

Landman Report Card, a site that looks at companies involved in gas and oil leases.FracFocus, a compilation of chemicals used in fracking individual wells as reported voluntarily by some drillers.

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.

National Geographic's The Great Shale Rush.

The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.

Buckeye Forest Council.

Earthjustice, a national eco-group.

Stop Fracking Ohio.

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.

Penn State Marcellus Center.

Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.

Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.