Clashes are growing between cities and states across America over oil and gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing, the practice of high pressure injections of water, sand and chemicals underground to free deposits of oil and gas. Energy-rich states are rushing to quash some of the local activism. Following is a summary of state debates.
In Texas, which leads the nation in oil and natural gas production, a measure to limit local regulations to those deemed “commercially reasonable” has passed the Legislature and is expected to be signed into law by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott. Cities would be allowed to regulate surface activities such as noise, lights and traffic but not drilling itself. No less than 11 bills have been introduced to the Texas Legislature this session to put limits on local control.
The Oklahoma House approved a wide-reaching bill last month that prohibits cities and towns from banning oil and natural gas drilling, or implementing restrictions that are not “reasonable.”
On the other side of the issue, New York state banned fracking statewide in December.
In Pennsylvania, after fracking in the Marcellus Shale deposit began booming in 2008, the Legislature imposed a 2012 law restricting the ability of municipalities to dictate the location of drilling activity. The law was struck down by the state Supreme Court last year.
After some Ohio cities passed municipal bans, that state’s Supreme Court recently ruled the opposite, finding that the state had exclusive authority over all aspects of oil and natural gas drilling, including fracking.
Colorado state law prohibits local ordinances that ban energy exploration such as fracking, but some towns have imposed them anyway, sparking lawsuits.
Fracking opponents last year attempted to put a measure on the election ballot stating that cities and counties could impose limits. The state’s Democratic governor got the opponents to drop the measures with the promise of a task force to look at the question.
When New Mexico’s Mora County imposed a ban on oil and gas development that was eventually struck down in federal court, state lawmakers responded with four bills designed to prevent future bans — though none passed.
The Republican-controlled Michigan Senate rejected two bills from suburban Detroit lawmakers that would have empowered local governments to limit oil and natural gas drilling.