Appalachian Basin

Salem City Council Votes Down Anti-Drilling Rule

This week, the Salem City Council voted against imposing new, overly restrictive zoning laws on the oil and gas industry. The actual measure was presented in the context of economic development, but the anti-fracking crowd had tried its hardest to spread misinformation in support of the ordinance.

Thankfully, and perhaps learning from the unfortunate experience of towns like Niles, the city council ultimately rejected the activists’ claims.

Even though the ordinance was being discussed for economic development reasons, the zoning law would still violate the Ohio Revised Code.  Local zoning laws do not apply to the oil and gas industry, since the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has the exclusive authority to regulate, permit, enforce and site oil and gas operations in the state. That’s because DNR, unlike local governments, has staff that is trained in regulating and permitting the industry.

As the city council was learning more about its authority to regulate the industry, groups like the Ohio Environmental Council and the Ohio Organizing Collaborative swooped in with panel discussions and even a movie to conjure up fear.  These presentations were, as usual, filled with half-truths and wild tales that were demonstrably not representative of Ohio’s oil and gas industry.

Following all of the hoopla brought into the city, the Salem City Council decided to hold its third and final hearing on the zoning ordinance on Monday night.  As the bill was opened to the council, Councilwoman Cyndi Baronzzi Dickey voiced her concern about the legality of passing such an ordinance.  Councilwoman Dickey was worried that passing the ordinance would open up Salem to litigation and could cost the city a considerable amount of money.  Her fellow council members agreed that the ordinance is not the best messenger for displaying their concern.  The city council then voted the ordinance down unanimously.

It is refreshing when a city council can pause and take a breath before making such an important decision.  After gathering all of the facts, the city council took the appropriate approach by voting down the measure.  The city council welcomes the industry and wants them to locate in the city.  The hotel the council was originally worried about is moving into Salem and the city council did not have to pass an ordinance that may have sent the wrong message to the industry.  It is a win-win for everyone involved.

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