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Ohio Utica Shale

Judge strikes down Broadview Heights' community bill of rights

By Bob Downing Published: March 13, 2015

A Cuyahoga County judge has struck down Broadview Heights’ community bill of rights that banned additional drilling.

The action came from Judge Michael Astrab in what was a major victory for Ohio’s drilling industry.

Astrab said the city’s community bill of rights conflicts with state law that gives the Ohio Department of Natural Resources sole authority to regulate drillers since 2004.

Many had questioned whether such community bills of rights are legal in Ohio, and the Broadview Heights case is the first Ohio case to get a legal review.

Other cities that have approved community bill of rights in varying forms include Yellow Springs, Athens, Mansfield, Cincinnati and Niles. Randolph Township, Youngstown and Bowling Green have voted against such bills of rights.

On Feb. 17, the Ohio Supreme Court in a 4-3 vote issued a similar finding on state, not local, control over drilling.

Broadview Heights had supported Munroe Falls in legal filings.

The new decision was "disappointing but not unexpected," said Tish O’Dell of Broadview Heights, a member of Mothers Aginst Drilling in Our Neighborhoods, a grass-roots group.

The city largely agreed with the plaintiffs in court that state law supercedes local restrictions, she said.

In 2012, Broadview Heights voters had approved the charter amendment ban on drilling by a 2-1 margin.

No wells have been drilled in Broadview Heights since the 2012 charter vote. The city has about 90 vertical-only wells that go down about 3,600 feet to the Clinton sandstone.

Two companies that drill vertical-only wells, Fairlawn-based Bass Energy Inc. and Youngstown-based Ohio Valley Energy, filed a lawsuit last June seeking to keep the city from interfering in drilling a well on 100 acres owned by a local church.

They were supported by the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, a statewide trade group.

Bass Energy wants to add a fourth directional well at St. Sava Servian Orthodox Church on West Wallings Road. It notified the city and neighbors and was told that the city intended to block any drilling under the charter amendment.

Bass Energy has 15 wells in Broadview Heights. Ohio Valley Energy has seven wells, according to state records.

The city’s position was supported by a O’Dell’s group and a Pennsylvania-based group, the Community Envrionmental Defense Fund.

Residents of Broadview Heights then filed suit against the drillers, saying the state’s exclusive authority is a violation of their rights to local self-government. That class-action suit is still pending.

Supporters have been pushing what’s called limited home rule in Ohio townships and a community bill of rights in cities and villages, both aimed at increased protection for air, water, health, property values and public safety. Such provisions say state laws allowing drilling violate the civil rights of local residents and threaten their health and safety.

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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.