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.