Federal Judge Strikes Down West Virginia Fracking Ban

courtroomA federal judge ruled Friday a West Virginia local government ordinance effectively banning hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, violates state and federal law.

Federal Judge John T. Copenhaver struck down an ordinance of Fayette County, W.V., saying aspects of it weren’t enforceable and were pre-empted by state and federal law. Copenhaver overturned the local government’s ordinance and granted the Pennsylvania-based petroleum company EQT a summary judgment in the case. The ordinance banned the disposal of water used in the fracking process.

The local government was represented pro-bono by an environmentalist law firm the website of which claims “fracking is destroying communities and water sources across Appalachia” and brags the firm has “secured hundreds of millions of dollars” in legal compliance fees. Litigation between the local government and other companies over the ban is still pending.

Copenhaver’s judgment is similar to a May Colorado Supreme Court ruling which struck down a pair of local fracking bans. The Supreme Court ruling foundonly the state government has the legal authority to regulate fracking, as any ban would be “preempted by state law and therefore, is invalid and unenforceable.” The oil and gas industry of most states has historically been regulated by state, not local, government. Several environmental groups, including Food and Water Watch, The Sierra Club, and Earthworks have supported local bans on fracking to create a a regulatory “patchwork,” which could hamper energy development.

The law firm and environmental groups argued fracking contaminates water supplies and causes earthquakes. Fracking earthquake and water contamination myths from environmentalists are so widespread the US. Geologic Survey actually maintains a “Myths and Misconceptions” section of its website to debunk them.

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