Professor David Spence, University of Texas at Austin
The law is frequently called upon to resolve regulatory conflicts that arise when a majority mildly prefers policy X, and minority strongly prefers policy not X. Two emerging bodies of case law present this problem, both associated with the growing number of challenges to local restrictions on the use of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) to produce oil and gas. One set of cases involves claims that these local restrictions are preempted by state oil and gas law; the other involves claims that, where a local ordinance survives preemption, it amounts to a regulatory taking. This lecture explores how the distribution of the costs and benefits of fracking drive the politics that provoke preemption and takings conflicts in the first place, and how the decision rules courts use to resolve preemption and takings claims try to address those distributional concerns.