In a ruling issued earlier this week, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a district court's decision to issue an injunction barring the United States Forest Service from applying the environmental impact study requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act to drilling in the 800-square mile Allegheny National Forest in northwestern Pennsylvania.
In Minard Run Oil Co. v. United States Forest Serv., 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 19265, the court determined that owners of minerals beneath the ANF and the producers who want to extract the oil and gas need not await an environmental impact study before drilling. In affirming the district court's decision, the court agreed that the Forest Service should be required to return to its prior, cooperative process for issuing notices to proceed after receiving a 60-day notice from the mineral owner, a practice that was established in United States v. Minard Run Oil Co., No. 90-12, 1980 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9570 (W.D. Pa. Dec. 16, 1980) [enhanced version available to lexis.com subscribers].
This decision was a victory for the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association and mineral owners, who challenged the new process established by the Forest Service as part of a settlement agreement with environmental groups. Implementation of the policy would have halted new drilling in the ANF.
Read the free download for more detail. [Enhanced version available to lexis.com subscribers ]
For more information about LexisNexis products and solutions, connect with us through our corporate site.
The last sentence in this article is wrong. The implementation of the settlement agreement between the Forest Service and the environmental groups would not have halted drilling on the Allegheny National Forest. The Third Circuit's opinion states: "Aside from the 54 [notice to proceed] applications identified in the Settlement Agreement, no new drilling in the ANF would be authorized until the forest-wide EIS was complete." Op. at 13. Of course, the court never discussed the fact that within those 54 applications that the environmental groups agreed to let go forward without any NEPA analysis were proposals for nearly 600 oil and gas wells. That can hardly be called a "halt to drilling."