Pennsylvania’s local fracking powers create tension

Issues similar to Ohio’s battle over home rule

NJI_Marcellus_ShaleMapInfo_Utica_20120517_v41Rich in oil and gas, poor in regulatory powers.  That describes a dilemma faced by many small towns in eastern Ohio as the fracking boom continues.

The Marcellus and Utica shale beds span large swaths of Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New York. The beds are ripe for drilling and hydraulic fracturing to remove oil and gas deposits and have proved a boon for energy companies – and some residents who have sold or leased their land to oil and gas producers.  According to a Dec. 5 report issued by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Ohio’s horizontal shale wells produced 3 million barrels of oil and 132 billion cubic feet of gas in the third quarter of 2014; that’s more than twice as much oil and nearly four times as much gas than during the same period last year.

But many in Ohio aren’t thrilled about the drilling boom. Some towns concerned about environmental issues – ranging from noise to pollution to disposal and transport of fracking wastes – are frustrated by their inability to regulate what happens when an oil and gas company comes to drill.

Ohio banned “home rule” powers over fracking in 2004.  With the passage of HB 278, the state took control of oil and gas operations away from local communities.   Zoning, permitting, nuisance, waste disposal and other regulatory issues now are overseen by ODNR.

The conflict is far from settled.  In a case pending before the Ohio Supreme Court, Munroe Falls in Summit County is arguing that it had the right to issue permits and regulate other aspects of Beck Energy Corp.’s drilling operations. Beck Energy says the state of Ohio has the sole power to control how it conducts business.

As you’ll read in Public Source, a non-profit investigative and public service journalism organization based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania has faced its own legal battles; its high court last year restored some zoning and nuisance regulatory powers to local communities. The ruling hasn’t dampened the tensions between them and oil and gas producers.

Read the full story at www.publicsource.org.

For information on Ohio’s Supreme Court case, and to see the arguments on both sides of Munroe Falls v. Beck Energy Corp., go to:  http://tinyurl.com/mfnyel6.

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