Munroe Falls will ask the Ohio Supreme Court to weigh in on whether oil and gas well drillers must follow city ordinances requiring construction and zoning permits.
Mayor Frank Larson said on Friday that the city will appeal a 9th District Ohio Court of Appeals decision that stops the city from enforcing parts of its permit process because they differ from state rules.
While the court sided with the city when it came to excavation and right-of-way permits, Larson said there is still an argument to be made about a city’s right to home rule.
“All we’re saying is, ‘Let’s use some common sense.’ The state says they don’t want oil and gas wells to be drilled in certain places. Well, why should the state be the one who is able to pick that and just totally ignore the citizens?” Larson said.
The case is being watched throughout the state, he said.
“We will probably have a heck of a lot of cities that will want to join the suit on it. It seems to be a hot issue right now,” Larson said.
The appeals court ruling 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, which included paying application fees and acquiring 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 only ordinances the city can enforce, the appeals court ruled, are those dealing with excavation and 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 drilling company started to build a drive on the property for carrying equipment to the site, but 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.
Beck did not return a call seeking comment about the appeals court ruling.