Oil and Gas Producers in Allegheny National Forest Win Preliminary Injunction
Shortly before Christmas, Minard Run Oil Company and Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Association (POGAM) won a preliminary ruling in Federal District Court prohibiting the U.S. Forest Service from implementing a settlement between U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and environmental groups to require prolonged NEPA environmental analysis before conducting oil and gas operations on privately owned mineral rights within the Allegheny National Forest. The moratorium on oil and gas drilling that the U.S. Forest Service imposed as a result of the settlement would have devastated the local economy in the 500,000-acre National Forest in Elk, Forest, McKean, and Warren Counties in Pennsylvania.
The National Forest was created in the 1920s by acquiring surface rights in land, with the preexisting mineral rights owned separately for nearly all the land. NEPA, the National Environmental Policy Act, applies solely to federal actions, which exempts the development of the preexisting privately owned mineral rights. The oil and gas companies, which are being represented by Mountain States Legal Foundation, already comply with established federal rules and law, and the fact that the federal government owns the surface rights does not change the law according to the Federal District Court in 1980 and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 2009.