Fracking Insider Readers: We are pleased to bring you Volume 41 of our State Regulatory Roundup, including updates in Maryland, North Carolina, and Ohio. As we explained in earlier volumes, we designed the Roundup to provide quick overviews on state regulatory activity. If you have any questions on any of these summaries, please do not hesitate to ask.
Maryland – Two bills affecting future hydraulic fracturing in the state have advanced in the General Assembly. The House of Delegates passed H.B. 449, which would place a three-year moratorium on the issuance of any permits for hydraulic fracturing. The bill would also create a ten-member expert panel to assess the scientific literature on hydraulic fracturing and determine whether it can be done in the state without adversely affecting public health or the environment. The Senate passed a version of the House bill on April 7 that did not include the expert panel, but did allow the state’s Department of Environment to begin crafting fracking rules, and that version of the bill is awaiting action by Gov. Larry Hogan (R). Meanwhile, the Senate passed S.B. 458, which would implement a strict liability standard for hydraulic fracturing operators, without the need to show negligence. Operators would be required to disclose the chemical constituents used in hydraulic fracturing fluids to a plaintiff, and to comply with more stringent insurance mandates. The General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn on April 13, and each bill requires a signature from Gov. Hogan to become law. Former Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) imposed a de facto moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in the state in 2011, pending the results of a three-year study that formed the basis for a set of strict regulations proposed by the former governor just 12 days before he left office (see our previous coverage here).
North Carolina – Gov. Pat McCrory (R) has signed H.B. 157, which rescinds a provision in the state code that requires the Environmental Management Commission to establish limits on air emissions from oil and gas production operations. The bill allows the Commission to forego regulation of air emissions from such operations unless it determines that general state and federal air toxics regulations are not providing adequate environmental protection.
Ohio – A judge struck down a “community rights” ordinance that banned hydraulic fracturing in Broadview Heights, determining that the ordinance conflicted with state law giving sole authority for drilling decisions to state regulators (see our previous coverage here). Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Michael Astrab ruled in favor of Bass Energy Co. and Ohio Valley Energy, companies that hold state-issued permits to drill in Broadview Heights. Astrab determined that R.C. Chapter 1509 preempts the voter-approved ordinance in Broadview Heights and expressly prohibits local governments from exercising powers in a way that “discriminates against, unfairly impedes, or obstructs oil and gas operations” that are regulated by the state.