by Andrew Follett
Anti-hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, activists suffered a pair of major legal defeats in Ohio when the state Supreme Court refused to put anti-fracking measures on the ballot in November and blocked attempts by local governments to ban fracking.
The Ohio Supreme Court’s Thursday rulings aren’t major surprises, as local fracking bans have repeatedly been struck down around the country.
Several state and federal courts concluded that only the state government has the legal authority to regulate fracking, as any ban would be “preempted by state law and therefore, is invalid and unenforceable.”
The oil and gas industry in most states have historically been regulated by state, not local, government. Environmental groups, including The Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Food and Water Watch, and Earthworks vehemently support local bans on fracking across the country.
The court also concluded that local governments can’t hold referendums to amend charters to ban fracking.
“Their determinations were consistent with our prior decisions authorizing election officials to determine whether a proposal exceeds the scope of the authority under which it is placed on the ballot,” the majority of the Court wrote in a six to one decision. This ruling confirmed a previous court decision that stopped local governments from banning fracking using zoning laws in 2015.
Ohio produces 1,000 percent more oil and natural gas than it did in 2006 and the state’s natural gas production grew 41 percent faster last year than it did in 2014, according to the federal Energy Information Administration.
“The energy renaissance that’s transforming our nation is bringing great benefits to Ohio including jobs in the state. In fact over 255,000 jobs are supported by the oil and natural gas industry in Ohio,” Jack Gerard, the president of the American Petroleum Institute, wrote in Your Oil And Gas News. “Over the last decade, natural gas production has increased by more than 1000 percent in the state due in part to the technological advancements in hydraulic fracturing that has contributed to Ohio’s energy revolution.”
Republicans in both state legislative chambers of Ohio have a long history of being hostile toward green energy. They attempted in 2015 to gut an Ohio law mandating the state get 25 percent of its power from green energy by 2025, despite reported veto threats and hostile rhetoric from Republican Gov. John Kasich. The governor has long been at odds with his own party over the state’s energy future. Ohio’s green energy mandate is responsible for 29,366 lost jobs and caused a $3,842 reduction in average household income, according to a study by Utah State University.
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