Communities Say They'll Keep Fighting Gas Drilling Despite Blow from High Court

Gas wells in shale country
Gas wells in shale country
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The Munroe Falls decision came from a bitterly divided court, and the majority ruling left open the possibility that while that city’s regulations were improper, others’ might pass muster.

That leaves John Spon, the city of Mansfield’s Law Director, optimistic. He drafted measures the city adopted to strictly limit and oversee oil and gas development, after a company proposed putting a wastewater disposal well in its industrial park.

Spon said the decision is limited enough that his city’s rules might survive a challenge.

"We are confident that if litigation was brought against our city, that the issues that would be presented would be issues that have never been decided by the Supreme Court," he said.

Spon added that the division among the justices means the ruling doesn’t set a strong precedent.

But the industry is claiming a win. Companies favor a uniform statewide review process because it streamlines development and means fewer limitations in municipalities that oppose fracking.

Mike Chadsey, a spokesman for the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, said business likes certainty, and this court ruling provides that.

"What this did was confirm a level of stability that we thought - that the state is the one that has the sole and exclusive authority to regulate and permit this industry," he said.

But many wary of development think state regulators are too lenient.

Spon, in Mansfield, predicted years of legal battles before the issue is settled for good.

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