Supreme Court Ruling Leaves Door Open to Local Regulation of Oil & Gas Activity, Ohio Lawyer Says

  • February 16, 2015

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Although the Ohio Supreme Court ruled 4-3 today against an Ohio city’s landmark effort to supersede state oil and gas laws, the court allowed for local control in other situations, a leading Ohio oil and gas lawyer says.

“In the last paragraph of its majority opinion, the Court leaves wide open the door to possible broad local regulation of oil and gas development,” wrote Alan D. Wenger, chair of the oil and gas law group at Harrington, Hoppe & Mitchell, Ltd., in a blog post today.

The closely watched case, Morrison v. Beck Energy Corp., pitted Munroe Falls Law Director Jack Morrison Jr. against an oil and gas developer. At issue were five specific Munroe Falls ordinances that arguably conflicted with state regulations.

Wenger contends that a close review of concurring and dissenting opinions suggests that four judges lean toward allowing local zoning regulations to apply.

Justice Terrence O'Donnell, the apparent swing vote in the case, “in his concurring opinion takes great pains to clarify that that the decision only applies to the five specific Munroe Falls ordinances at issue,” Wenger writes.

Wenger continues, “Four of the seven Justices appear to approvingly refer to recent precedent in New York, Pennsylvania and Colorado that allow local zoning regulation of oil and gas development.

“Thus, four of the seven justices who heard this case appear to adamantly maintain that state preemption does not apply to local zoning generally, and the whole Court seems to agree that the application of ODNR preemption to local zoning in Ohio remains an open question.

“So the preemption battle will rage on. Undoubtedly Ohio municipalities will be flexing their muscles and push the issue. And the oil and gas industry has little to gloat over.”

Harrington, Hoppe & Mitchell Ltd. is the Mahoning Valley’s largest law firm, with offices in Youngstown, Warren, Salem and St. Clairsville and more than 20 full-time lawyers. The firm provides legal solutions to corporations, other businesses, non-profit organizations, government agencies and individuals.

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For more information, contact:
Dan Pecchia, Pecchia Communications LLC, (330) 720-6912 or by email