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Gregory Brunton Quoted in Columbus Business First Article on Local Drilling Rules Case

Columbus Business First
December 13, 2013

Local drilling rules case in Supreme Court drawing interest from wide swath

Columbus attorney Greg Brunton thinks it’s telling that many groups have filed amicus briefs indicating keen interest in an oil and natural gas dispute that has worked its way to the Ohio Supreme Court.

More than 50 companies, trade groups, cities and mom-and-pop businesses are weighing in on Munroe Falls vs. Beck Energy Corp., a fight that could determine if Ohio communities have the right to regulate oil and natural gas drilling within their boundaries.

“The case is very significant,” said Brunton, who works on energy issues in his practice at Reminger Attorneys at Law. “That’s why you’ve seen so many amicus briefs filed.”

The high court has received 34 briefs from municipalities, small companies and others who support local oil and gas regulations. Nineteen have been filed by oil companies, trade groups and the state wanting the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to maintain its exclusive authority to regulate drilling.

Businesses such as Donkey Coffee in Athens, Mustard Seed Market in Akron and Snowville Creamery in Pomeroy are facing the American Petroleum Institute, state Chamber of Commerce and Ohio Oil and Gas Association.

“It’s definitely David vs. Goliath here,” said the Ohio Environmental Council’s Trent Dougherty, who filed briefs for many who favor local regulation.

In the lawsuit, Munroe Falls officials claim Beck Energy didn’t comply with city laws on permits for drilling, zoning and rights-of-way. A Summit County Common Pleas Court judge ruled in favor of Munroe Falls last year, but Ohio’s 9th District Court of Appeals in Akron overturned most of the lower court decision in February, including the mandate that Ravenna-based Beck obtain a drilling permit from the municipality.

It is likely the Supreme Court will hear arguments by early spring. That would set the stage for a decision next summer.

Those who favor local regulation have mixed reasons, Dougherty said. Some want more rules on drilling operations, especially fracking, and others want to defend local zoning authority.

Brunton said a decision in favor of local regulation would create potential havoc for oil and gas development in Ohio. He represents land owners, pipeline companies and other Utica shale play developers.

“It would greatly frustrate a uniform state law,” he said, “and make it uncertain if a (company) can actually drill even if it gets a permit from the state. ... Now it would be not only statewide regulations to deal with but varying rules locally that may delay or prevent these projects.”