Ohio Supreme Court Weighs in on Weathersfield Injection Well Case

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled that an appeals court failed to comply with proper instructions when it decided in favor of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ decision to suspend operations at an injection well in Weathersfield Township without compensating the well’s owner.

According to a slip opinion filed Wednesday, the state’s high court said the 11th District Court of Appeals in Warren “did not comply with remand instructions” when it ruled on the matter.

The well’s owner, AWMS Water Solutions LLC, has argued that ODNR’s decision to order stop operations at the injection well amounted to a “government taking of its property requiring the state to pay AWMS just compensation.”

According to court papers, AWMS had invested approximately $5.6 million to construct its facilities in the township.

In March 2014, ODNR authorized AWMS to commence injections into two wells at the site, court papers show.

Four months later, a 1.7-magnitude tremor was recorded near well #2, and a 2.1 magnitude quake was recorded in the same area, court papers say.

Following the second earthquake, ODNR’s oil and gas division ordered that AWMS suspend operations at both injection wells. It eventually lifted the suspension on well #1 but kept the suspension of well #2 in place, documents show.

At question is whether AWMS held a “cognitive property interest” at the site that would support its “taking clause” argument, records show.

The court of appeals, however, ruled that the company did not hold such an interest in the lease or the property and denied AWMS a writ of mandamus, records show.

However, the high court ruled Wednesday that the “court of appeals did not follow our instructions” and instead agreed with AWMS that the court “improperly considered issues outside the scope of this court’s remand order,” which was to “weigh the parties’ evidence.”

The case has been sent back to the 11th District Court of Appeals to “weigh the parties’ evidence to determine whether AWMS suffered a total-taking” and whether it suffered a “partial taking” as a result of ODNR’s suspension, and determine whether the state owes AWMS any compensation.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.