Beck Energy gains support in Summit case

By Jeff Saunders | Stow Sentry Published:

Munroe Falls -- Weeks after the city received support in its fight for control of oil and natural gas drilling within its boundaries, the opposing side has received similar support, including from the state itself.

A number of entities filed friend of the court briefs in the Ohio Supreme Court on Oct. 28 in support of Ravenna-based Beck Energy.

These include a brief from Ohio Attorney General Michael DeWine, signed by State Solicitor Eric E. Murphy.

Other briefs were filed by the Ohio Contractor's Association, the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, the Ohio Aggregates Association, the American Petroleum Institute, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce, the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 18, the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber of Commerce, and eight companies identifying themselves as "active oil and gas producers engaged in the development of the Utica Shale in Ohio."

"It doesn't surprise me," said Mayor Frank Larson. "Both sides are going to get as many as they can."

The briefs follow friend of the court briefs filed in early September on behalf of the city by the cities of Broadview Heights, Euclid, Mansfield, and North Royalton, as well as Heath, a city in Licking County, and Amesville, a village in Athens County.

Other briefs filed in support of Munroe Falls in September include a group of about a dozen health care professionals and an organization called Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy, and a group of "Ohio local businesses," including agricultural, retail food service, landscaping, electric services, real estate and tourism businesses.

The issue began, city officials say, in March 2011 when Beck Energy brought in a bulldozer to construct a driveway in support of planned drilling operations on private residential Munroe Falls Avenue property. The city said Beck did not have zoning and building permits from the city and issued a stop work order.

The company said it did not believe it needed such permits because it had an oil and gas permit from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which under state law regulates drilling in the state.

The Summit County Court of Common Pleas ruled later that year that the city could oversee drilling operations within its boundaries, but the Ninth District Court of Appeals overruled the decision.

The state's high court agreed to accept the city's appeal last June.

Beck President David Beck did not return a phone call seeking comment. He said in June that he wanted to wait until the case is resolved before making any statements.

Beck said last February that it could hurt the oil and gas industry in the state if drillers had to deal with a huge number of local laws.

City officials have said the issue is one of home rule and the right of municipalities to decide what happens, including zoning matters, within their boundaries.

"To cities, this is an important case," said Larson.

Email: jsaunders@recordpub.com

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