City Of Athens Declares Support For ‘Home Rule’ In Fracking Appeal

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The city of Athens and the village of Amesville have expressed their support for the city of Munroe Falls, which is appealing a court decision that says that the state of Ohio preempts local control when it comes to oil and gas drilling.

The city of Munroe Falls is appealing a court decision that prevents the municipality from enforcing portions of its permit process because it differs from state rules. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is the sole agency that regulates oil and gas drilling in the state.

The case stems from Beck Energy Corp.’s effort to install a well on private property in the Akron suburb. The energy company refused to pay for an application fee and performance bond, which is required by the city. The company told city officials that it didn’t need to apply for city permits since the ODNR already gave the company permission to drill the well.

Munroe Falls Mayor Frank Larson told the Akron Beacon Journal that the city was not trying to stop the drilling by Beck Energy, but was trying to get the company to file the required permits for “things like assuring roads give proper access to fire and police vehicles in an emergency, installing adequate fencing to keep pedestrians out of the construction area and regulating landscaping.”

Several municipalities in Ohio have expressed their support for home rule protections against fracking operations by filing an Amicus brief with the Ohio Supreme Court. Such municipalities include the village of Amesville, and the cities of Broadview Heights, Euclid, Mansfield and North Royalton.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council — a group representing the municipalities — the brief “explains the importance of community character, quality of life and economic wellbeing, 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.”

Amesville Mayor Gary Goosman said that his village is in support of home rule and municipalities setting their own rules and regulations as long as they don’t violate the state constitution.

Goosman said that the village had its mayor’s court removed due to legislation passed by the state. He said the communities should be able to control their own local income and regulations.

During Monday’s Athens City Council meeting, all members expressed their support for the city’s administration to also file an Amicus brief supporting Munroe Falls.

Athens City Council has adopted several laws in the past couple years pertaining to the fracking industry, but those laws would also likely be preempted by state law if oil and gas drilling were to happen in the vicinity of the city.

Athens Councilwoman Chris Knisely said, “Our previous ordinances are consistent in showing support for this case.”

Councilwoman Michele Papai pointed at the pollution caused by flooded oil and gas wells in Boulder, Colo. as an example of what can go wrong when tight regulations aren’t in place regarding fracking.

“What was the long term range planning when they put all the oil and gas wells in a flood zone?” Papai said. “So now (the wells are) floating and they’re polluting farther on down stream.”

Mayor Paul Wiehl and some Council members said that fracking could have a negative impact on farming in the region, which is a large driver in the county’s economy.

“Right now the home rule has completely been denied and that’s one of the reasons for this court appeal,” said Councilwoman Chris Fahl. “I fully support the city administration in (filing an Amicus brief).”