Yesterday the Ohio Supreme Court, in a 5-2 decision, ruled that the state’s Oil and Gas Commission lacks jurisdiction to hear appeals of drilling permits issued by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The Oil & Gas Commission is a five-member advisory council that hears appeals from persons claiming to be aggrieved or adversely affected by an order by the Chief of DNR’s Division of Mineral Resources Management.
In March of 2012 the DNR’s Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management (DOGRM) issued a permit to a drilling company to drill an oil and gas well. The landowner appealed DNR’s issuance of the drilling permit to the Oil and Gas Commission, which in July found that it had jurisdiction to hear the landowner’s appeal. Both DNR and the drilling company objected before the Commission, and then sought a writ of prohibition directly from the Ohio Supreme Court on the grounds that the Commission could not hear the appeal because the permit is not a final order from the Chief of the DOGRM.
Five justices agreed with DNR and the drilling company, finding that the Commission “patently and unambiguously lacked jurisdiction” to hear the landowner’s permit appeal. Specifically, although one statutory provision gave the Commission authority to hear appeals of all “orders” of the Chief of the DOGRM, another provision in the same statute explicitly stated that a permit “shall not be considered an order of the Chief.” Based on this provision, the Court found that drilling permits cannot be appealed to the Commission. However, the Court did not expressly address whether or how drilling permits can be appealed (such as to a different administrative body or to state court).