Academic journal article Boston College Journal of Law & Social Justice

NO FRACKNATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION: STRIPPING AWAY A CITY'S RIGHT TO REGULATE THE STRIPPING AWAY OF ITS NATURAL RESOURCES IN STATE EX REL. MORRISON V. BECK ENERGY CORP

Academic journal article Boston College Journal of Law & Social Justice

NO FRACKNATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION: STRIPPING AWAY A CITY'S RIGHT TO REGULATE THE STRIPPING AWAY OF ITS NATURAL RESOURCES IN STATE EX REL. MORRISON V. BECK ENERGY CORP

Article excerpt

Introduction

The Beck Energy Corporation ("Beck Energy") is an Ohio-based oil and natural gas company that secured a permit from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources ("ODNR") Mineral Resources Management Division to drill a well on Joseph Willingham's property located in the city of Munroe Falls.1 Beck Energy received a permit pursuant to the conditions outlined in Ohio's Revised Code ("R.C.") Chapter 1509, which regulates oil and gas wells and production operations within Ohio.2 Beck Energy, however, re fused to comply with the necessary Munroe Falls municipal ordinances before drilling within the city limits.3 The City of Munroe Falls issued a Stop Work Order and sought a permanent injunction that would prohibit Beck Energy from drilling within the city until the energy company complied with the city's municipal regulations.4

Beck Energy opposed the injunction, asserting that the Munroe Falls ordinances were unenforceable because they conflicted with Ohio's comprehensive oil and gas regulatory scheme, as embodied in R.C. Chapter 1509.5 In obtaining the state permit, Beck Energy met a total of sixtyseven required conditions relating to site distribution, pit construction, waste disposal, noise mitigation, and appropriate notice to surrounding property owners.6 Munroe Falls' municipal ordinances addressed similar considerations and consequently required Beck Energy to undergo a repetitive and parallel permitting process.7 In contesting compliance with the ordinances, Beck Energy argued that these ordinances were not only redundant, but also violated Ohio's Home Rule Amendment.8 Munroe Falls justified the enforcement of both its ordinances and the subsequent injunction as a valid exercise of its home-rule authority.9 Under this doctrine, a city has the power to implement local ordinances that supplement, rather than conflict with, general state law.10

The Court of Common Pleas in Summit County initially granted injunctive relief that prohibited Beck Energy from drilling until it complied with all local ordinances.11 Upon review, however, the Ninth District Court of Appeals held that five of Munroe Falls' municipal ordinances conflicted with state general law; the court reversed the lower court's injunction as it related to these five ordinances.12 In a plurality opinion written by Justice Judith L. French, the Ohio Supreme Court upheld the Court of Appeals decision and held that these ordinances violated Ohio's Home Rule Amendment, leaving them preempted by the existing state laws.13

Part I of this Comment outlines the factual and procedural history as well as relevant legal considerations in Beck. Part II discusses and compares the plurality's holding that state drilling and fracking laws preempted local regulations, with the concurring and dissenting opinions, which advocated for preserving a municipality's ability to regulate locally impactful activity when at all possible. Part III advocates for the dissent's reluctance in curtailing home-rule authority in cases that have a significant bearing on the interests of a municipality's residents. With issues as impactful on local communities as fracking, the dissent's approach allows local ordinances to coexist with state law. Further, the dissent's position provides those citizens most impacted by such environmentally disruptive drilling activities with a more effective avenue for regulating the operations of a company with a particularly strong influence within the state.

I.Local and State Regulations and Relevant Procedural History Addressing Beck Energy's Right to drill

On February 16, 2011, Beck Energy Corporation ("Beck Energy") secured a permit from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources ("ODNR"), Division of Mineral Resources Department, to drill a conventional gas well in Munroe Falls.14 Beck Energy received the state permit through Ohio's Revised Code ("R.C.") Chapter 1509, which provides uniform statewide regulation of oil and gas production within Ohio. …

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