Final Appeal? Court Says Drilling in Allegheny Natl Forest Legal

When the federal government digs in its heels and is intent on obstructing justice, it can take a long time to remedy via the courts. But (sometimes) justice does prevail in the end. We now have–hopefully–a final resolution in the ongoing series of cases known as Minard Run Oil v. United States Forest Service. We wrote about this case back in 2011, but it goes back much further, to 2009 (see Drillers Sue US Govt over Allegheny National Forest Delays). As a brief background, the federal government purchased a number of parcels of land in 1923 that became the Allegheny National Forest (ANF) in northwestern Pennsylvania. However, the government did not purchase the mineral rights under most of the land–seems that back in 1923 the government didn’t just print the money it wanted (“quantitative easing” anyone?).

Even though they don’t own the mineral rights, in 2009 the U.S. Forest Service (federal agency managing the ANF) entered into what was an illegal out of court settlement with environmentalist groups stipulating that the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) will govern all oil and gas drilling in the ANF. It effectively shut down any new drilling in the forest, denying private citizens the ability to benefit from their private property (mineral) rights. The drilling industry sued and the case has now gone through three appeals. The most recent appeal was heard by the federal U.S. Court of Appeals Third Circuit. The court ruled, once again, in favor of private property rights…

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