There is nothing in the congressional record indicating that Congress did not intend for the Forest Service to regulate private oil and gas drilling activities in eastern national forests. In fact, just the opposite is true. The congressional record reveals that Congress intended the Forest Service to have the same power over eastern national forests as it had over national forests in the western U.S. That would include the authority to require private oil and gas companies to implement reasonable mitigation measures to reduce their environmental impact in the Allegheny National Forest.
Furthermore, the Weeks Act required that the federal government obtain consent from the state legislature prior to establishment of national forests in the state. In May 1911, the Pennsylvania legislature expressly consented to the creation of what would eventually become the Allegheny National Forest. The Pennsylvania legislature said that the federal government would have authority to pass laws that “in its judgment may be necessary for the management, control and protection” of national forest lands. In other words, the Pennsylvania legislature unambiguously turned over the “management, control and protection” of lands that would become the Allegheny National Forest to the federal government.
A century later, the oil and gas industry is attempting to erase this history. Earlier this year, the Pennsylvania legislature enacted Act 13. Most people are aware of this legislation because it stripped local municipalities from being able to pass ordinances aimed at protecting communities from the onslaught of shale gas drilling.
Another provision of the act, however, allegedly “clarified” the 1911 legislation consenting to the creation of the Allegheny National Forest. Act 13 says that the original consent legislation was never intended to allow the federal government, through the Forest Service, to regulate oil and gas companies in the Allegheny National Forest.
Of course, if the Pennsylvania legislature intended such a result, it could have easily inserted such a provision in 1911. Oil and gas drilling had been around for approximately 50 years at that point, so the state legislature in 1911 was certainly aware of the issue. The current state legislature cannot revoke or modify the consent of the 1911 state legislature.
http://law.justia.com/cases/federal/dis ... 5/92403/42
Tried to find more data, for something that would actually impact all of us, potentially changing how government land is managed across the country, this case is getting remarkably little press.
I cannot access the original artical without payment,.but basically, the Forest Service is contending that they have the right to place reasonable restrictions on the access of mineral rights. In the past, this has included specifications regarding road building (largely to protect water resources, but also some other safety issues like traffic concerns). time limitations (to protect various species or the integrity of the land... big rigs moving over wet ground cause a LOT of damage, just as an example, and requiring companies to wait until ground is dry does a lot to protect the surface).
Judge McLaughlin rules that the forest service has no right to limit access because PA law holds mineral rights dominant over mineral rights (note, this means that if someone wants to build an oil derrick right next to my house, they can and I have no say over it, so this actually is a far reaching concept... it also means that municipalities are forbidden from putting restrictions on drillers to protect reservoirs or anything else on the surface, but this stretches it to federal lands).
HUH... basically this judge is declaring that state law supercedes federal rights and rules. The argument against involves the Weeks act and its history. (you can read into that law more, but basically it gave the federal government authority to buy lands to make public forests, in large part to protect watersheds and public water resources)
Signed into law by President William Howard Taft, the Weeks Act permitted the federal government to purchase private land in order to protect the headwaters of rivers and watersheds in the eastern United States and called for fire protection efforts through federal, state, and private cooperation
There are many problems with this, but the most obvious is that this judge puts state law above Federal law, and it is on that basis that the US Forest Service and other entities are objecting.
Do I think this suit will succeed? No, because Marsallus shale interests are way to heavy, also because there is a mistaken belief that private entities will somehow better protect us than private ones. This is a very prime example of how that does NOT happen. In fact, the whole history of the Forest Service (and you might as well add in Rangelands, reserves as well).
Just for some more background, when I say “taking”, I am not speaking lightly. The Allegheny Forest has been a major source of hunting, hiking and other recreation for the region and beyond. EACH Marsallus shale platform winds up clearing 5 acres, that is without even getting into the more long term impacts like if the fracking fluid leaks into the watershed (would destroy multiple towns). Hunting was already down, but this is literally killing it off. Recreational opportunities are similarly diminished, both because of the direct loss of forested land, the noise, and the many, many trucks driving on the rural roads.