Potential Double-Edged Precedent in Ohio Oil Drilling Suit; Why Do States Have Such Authority?

An Ohio State Supreme Court ruling today that slammed the door on local communities’ rights to prohibit or license tracking that was permitted by state law could be a double-edged sword if it gains a national judicial following.

In the case, an openly fragmented state court ruled 4-3 that the town of Munroe Falls, a suburb of Akron, could not require an energy company to get local drilling permits before proceeding with a well for which it had already obtained state licensing. Ohio’s constitution, somewhat unusually, has a “home rule” provision that gives cities and counties more say in such matters than is true in most other states (though, notably, not Texas, where they can exert even greater control).

If municipalities can’t overrule states in such matters, it could be argued that by analogy states shouldn’t be allowed to overrule Federal regulations. That would result in a uniform national policy on oil drilling and particularly the dangerous practice of tracking.

I’ve often wondered why states are permitted any regulation over natural resources and related phenomenon which clearly do not recognize state boundaries. For example, when a state writes its own rules about air pollution that undercut those of the federal government, the dirty air their states’ manufacturers and cars are then permitted to generate doesn’t stay in their states; it flows over into adjoining states…and even those beyond immediately adjacent. So why should they have any authority to impose their filthy air on the residents of other, more appropriately behaving states?

Using the logic of this court ruling — which is obviously not legally binding outside Ohio — it may someday become possible for the Feds to regulate clean air and water for an increasingly mobile and national society.

And that would be a good thing indeed.


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