In late February, we covered the state and federal legislative and enforcement responses to the release of hydraulic fracturing waste into a Youngstown, Ohio area tributary by a local oil and gas drilling operator. Shortly after the announcement of federal criminal charges and state civil enforcement actions and related legislation, the Youngstown City Council (Council) approved an ordinance submitting for a vote in the May 7 primary elections a city charter amendment banning oil and gas drilling activities within city limits.

The Youngstown law director acknowledged that the Council was compelled to pass the proposal without considering its contents because the sponsoring anti-fracturing group obtained the required number of signatures. But, as the law director also noted, even if passed, the amendment would likely be preempted by Ohio law governing oil and gas drilling operations. In fact, on February 6, in State of Ohio ex rel. Morrison v. Beck Energy Corp., 2013-Ohio-356, the Ninth District Court of Appeals held that the state’s oil and gas regulatory regime prevented the enforcement of conflicting local ordinances requiring municipal drilling permits and zoning certificates for the construction of an oil and gas well. As we noted in our prior coverage of the Morrison case, the invalidated ordinances fell well short of a flat ban on oil and gas activities as is contemplated by the Youngstown measure.

We will monitor the results of Youngstown’s proposal on the May 7 ballot.