Warren Commissioners Condemn "Heavy-Handed" Drilling Regulations In National Forest
In Pennsylvania, surface and mineral rights for property are sold separately. That means in 15 percent of state forests and 85 percent of state parks, the commonwealth doesn’t have a say on whether or not drilling can take place.
The same is true for the Allegheny National Forest, where private landowners hold the bulk of mineral rights, and get to decide whether or not energy companies can drill for natural gas.
Government officials can’t do anything to stop drilling. They can, however, put restrictions in place that hinder extraction. That’s what Warren County’s commissioners claim is happening in the 513,000-acre forest.
Earlier this week, the commissioners passed a resolution condemning what they consider “heavy-handed” tactics in the forest:
The Warren Times-Observer has more:
A resolution passed unanimously at Wednesday morning’s meeting states the commissioners’ collective “disagreement, opposition, and unhappiness” with some practices of the local branch of the U.S. Forest Service.
“… decisions by the USFS can benefit or adversely affect the well-being of its citizens and local economy and… recent decisions made by the USFS have been unilateral in nature and… harmed the public welfare and well being of Warren County and its citizens,” according to the resolution.
Specifically, over the past few years the Forest Service has denied oil and gas developers access to water for drilling activities, stone for road-building activities, and, in many cases, reasonable access to their sub-surface rights in general, the commissioners said.
The surface of the Allegheny National Forest is owned by the federal government while the great majority of the sub-surface rights are held privately.
“There are legal precedents which are being completely ignored,” Commissioner John Bortz said. “What we’re trying to do today is to state Warren County does not approve of what the federal government is doing.”