Posted by: Patricia Salkin | June 14, 2016

LA Supreme Court Grants Writs of Parish Against Commissioner of the Office of Conservation Arising from a Drill Permit for a Well

In 1998, St. Tammany Parish adopted a home rule charter in accordance with its constitutional authority under La. Const. art. VI, § 17. Pursuant to the parish’s home rule charter, the zoned area at issue, which was located over a significant source of drinking water, was designated wholly residential in 2010. Despite the existing residential zone designation, the Commissioner issued a drill permit for a well in the restricted zone area in 2014. The Court of Appeal held that the Commissioner’s power to issue drill permits was an exercise of the police power of the state which may not be abridged pursuant to La. Const. art. VI, § 9(B).

The court noted that while the Court of Appeal was correct that the exercise of the police power of the state may not be abridged, government zoning codes are also exercises of state police power. The Court of Appeal’s reasoned that the Commissioner’s authority under state law preempted the parish’s zoning ordinances. However, the court found that this case was not resolved on preemption, because the local ordinances in question governed a wholly distinct subject matter (i.e., zoning and land use planning) from the statutory framework at issue. Since land use ordinances such as zoning codes are not duplicative of state law, they were therefore found not subject to preemption by state oil and gas laws.

St. Tammany Parish Government v Welsh, 2016 WL 3533521 (LA 6/17/2016)

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