In State ex rel. Morrison v. Beck Energy Corp., Ninth Dist. Case No. 25953, 2013-Ohio-356, the Ninth Appellate District reversed a decision of the Summit County Court of Common Pleas and held that local ordinances of the City of Munroe Falls regarding oil and gas drilling were preempted by the comprehensive state regulatory scheme granting authority to regulate oil and gas drilling to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). As a result, the City was barred from enforcing its oil and gas drilling ordinances against Beck Energy.
In its “home rule” analysis, the Appellate Court found that the City’s zoning and rights-of-way ordinances were exercises of the City’s police power, but also that Ohio Revised Code Chapter 1509 was a general law and provided a comprehensive regulatory scheme for oil and gas well operations in this state. Under Ohio law, any local ordinances indirect conflict with a comprehensive state regulatory scheme are preempted. The Appellate Court found that the City’s oil and gas drilling and zoning ordinances were in direct conflict with Ohio Rev. Code Chapter 1509 and thus preempted.
The Appellate Court allowed that the City could enforce its ordinances regarding construction of rights-of-way, as long as it did not enforce them in a discriminatory manner against oil and gas well drilling. The State’s comprehensive regulatory scheme also includes an exception for local authorities and the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) to grant permits for oversized vehicles to use roads under their respective jurisdictions, as long as they do not discriminate against oil and gas activities.
The panel of judges who decided the case actually were from the Eleventh District (which oversees Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake, Portage and Trumbull Counties) sitting by assignment from the Ohio Supreme Court, since all the judges from the Ninth District (which oversees Lorain, Medina, Summit and Lorain Counties) recused themselves. While this was a case of “first impression,” it is likely that any similar local ordinances in Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake, Portage or Trumbull Counties would likewise be invalidated.
For more information on these developments and for practical legal advice, contact Mark L. Rodio, Esq. or Adam J. Russ, Esq.