On the heels of FrackGate, and the Governor’s State of the State address, this week kicks off oral arguments in the Supreme Court case State of Ohio ex rel. Jack Morrison, Jr., Law Director City of Munroe Falls, Ohio, et al. v. Beck Energy Corporation.
At issue in this case is the ability of localities to protect their community character by exercising their traditional land use powers over oil and gas development. These powers were removed in 2004 by the Ohio legislature at the request of the oil lobby and given to the Ohio Department of Resources via HB 278. Munroe Falls Mayor Frank Larson told Ohio.com : “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,”.
A group of Ohio municipalities have weighed in on behalf of home rule protections against fracking operations in the controversial Ohio Supreme Court Case pitting communities against unfettered oil and gas development. The cities of Broadview Heights, Euclid, Mansfield, and North Royalton, and the Village of Amesville, submitted a “friends of the court” brief .
The municipalities’ brief explains the importance of community character, quality of life and economic well-being, and asks the court to consider the grave threats to communities across the state if the state’s oil and gas law, which itself contains little to no consideration of community character impacts, is allowed to pre-empt local control. Representing the municipalities are attorneys with the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Community Fracking Defense Project and a local Columbus attorney.
A brief submitted on behalf of health professionals warns that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR ) by statute is required to issue permits if minimum spacing and setback requirements are met however “The agency cannot consider serious health threats that result from chronic, low-dose exposure to toxic chemicals, devastating harms from predictable but long-term migration of pollutants, or significant diminution in the value of nearby property that cannot be used or enjoyed in close proximity to oil or gas wells.” Health Professional Brief by EarthJustice
Numerous Ohio business’s also submitted a supporting brief noting that it is unfair for this one industry to be provided exemptions to zoning and related laws by which they are required to adhere: Business Brief by OEC
On the other hand, a handful of energy companies along with the American Petroleum Institute filed briefs supporting Beck Energy. As of 2013, Beck is the only energy company in the state listed by ODNR with a final Non-appealable Order for Material & Substantial Violation: ODNR Order . Their experience includes over 50 violations including those of dumping and pollution as recorded by the ODNR and EPA over the years. Despite this, the State Of Ohio, the Canton Chamber of Commerce and others listed as ‘allies’ in the recent state park leasing scheme and subsequent cover-up are coincidentally supporting Beck.