As noted here last month, Joel Tarr presented a very interesting paper on the regulation of natural gas drilling in nineteenth-century Pennsylvania at the 2013 meeting of the American Society for Environmental History. In the wake of the conference he was kind enough to send me a link to a piece he published last year in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (kudos to the newspaper for publishing serious stuff like this), "When the Streets Ran with Gas".
Though state-federal relations and federal preemption of state environmental law garner much attention today (e.g. here and here), Tarr's piece reminds us that tensions between environmental regulation by local governments and the law of higher levels of government were and continue to be a major source of conflict regarding the legal regulation of the environment (and not just in the US). The article explains that one of the major political and legal issues regarding shale fracking today, "the right of municipalities to enact regulations controlling natural gas operations within their boundaries without conflicting with state law... was also prominent in the 1880s during the early days of traditional natural gas development and distribution", and goes on to explore litigation and legislation over this issue in 1880s Pennsylvania.