Louisiana Supreme Court Bars Local Fracking Bans

Bonner R. Cohen,

Ending a two-year tug-of-war between St. Tammany Parish and Louisiana’s Office of Conservation, the Louisiana Supreme Court decided it will not hear an appeal of a Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that declared only the state government has the authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing, commonly called “fracking.”

The decision puts an end to a 2014 St. Tammany ordinance prohibiting oil and gas exploration, including fracking, in the parish.

Fracking Bans Failing Everywhere

Local anti-fracking ordinances have sprung up across the United States, frequently backed by environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, Earthworks, and Food and Water Watch. Recent court decisions in Colorado, West Virginia, and now in Louisiana have overturned them. In each case, the courts have upheld a state’s authority to regulate fracking within its borders.

fracking_small Louisiana Supreme Court Bars Local Fracking Bans

“The Louisiana Supreme Court decision is a welcome one,” said Marita Noon, executive director of Energy Makes America Great. “It adds to a growing body of court decisions and legislation establishing the regulation of oil and gas drilling is the purview of the state authorities.

“Oil and gas extraction is a complex process, and high-level experts are needed to oversee it—experts who are employed by the state in which the hydrocarbons are extracted,” Noon said. “These so-called fracking bans are not really about hydraulic fracturing, they are a backdoor approach to keeping fossil fuels in the ground.”

Landowners’ Rights Protected

Dan Simmons, vice president for policy at the Institute for Energy Research, sees the ruling as a victory for advocates of property rights.

“This ruling allows landowners to benefit from the minerals beneath their land,” said Simmons.

“The most important role for government at any level is to protect people’s rights,” Simmons said. “Sometimes local governments do that the best, sometimes the states, and sometimes even the federal government. In this case, it’s good to see property rights protected by the state courts when the local government was trampling them.” 

Bonner R. Cohen, Ph.D., (bcohen@nationalcenter.org) is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.