Energy. Environment. Economy.

Pa. Lawmaker Proposal Would Strip Feds of Water Regulation Authority in Allegheny National Forest

U.S. Forest Service

A view of the Allegheny National Forest.

A bill that would strip the U.S. Forest Service of regulation over water withdrawals in the Allegheny National Forest is sneaking its way through the legislature. Last week, the state Government Committee approved House Bill 1904, which would amend a law passed by the General Assembly back in 1911. That law allowed the state to sell 800 square miles of land in northwestern Pennsylvania to the federal government, which in 1923, turned it into the Allegheny National Forest. The purchase was part of a larger 6 million acre acquisition of land that created the country’s National Forest system 100 years ago in order to protect watersheds, rivers and streams.

Given the original federal legislation that allocated $200,000 dollars for the purchase of land clearly states the goal of water resource protection, it’s unclear how the state could then strip the Forest Service of their water regulatory duties. But House Bill 1904, sponsored by Republican Representative Kathy Rapp, who represents the Allegheny National Forest area, does just that.

(4)  No laws nor rules under this section may supersede, invalidate or modify the common law of the Commonwealth or a statute of the Commonwealth respecting any of following:

(i)  The storage, control, use or development of water resources in this Commonwealth or any riparian rights appurtenant and incident to water resources.

(ii)  The development, use or ownership of mineral resources in this Commonwealth.

Natural gas drilling in the forest has staunch opponents. And the controversial issue made its way to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals this year after the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association, and Warren County, sued the Forest Service over a drilling moratorium. In 2009, the Forest Service, under pressure from environmental groups, decided to conduct an environmental impact study before allowing any more drilling on forest land to continue. But the problem is, the Forest Service never purchased the mineral rights when they bought the land back in the early 1900′s. So county officials, and private citizens argued they would lose money if the Forest Service halted drilling until an environmental impact study was completed. The Third Circuit agreed with them, and in September, 2011 told the Forest Service to open up the land to drillers.

HB 1904 seems to codify that court decision, which has the folks at Trout Unlimited worried. “The Allegheny National Forest supports small headwater streams,” said Katy Dunlap, the Eastern Water Project Director for Trout Unlimited. “This is where trout populations are intact…unregulated water withdrawals could deplete stream flows and impact trout populations.”

It’s unclear from the legislation’s current language, who, if anyone, would regulate water withdrawals in the Forest. No river basin commission exists in that part of the state, so the likely candidate would be the Department of Environmental Protection. Although the proposal has passed through committee and is now before the full House, it’s unlikely HB 1904 will get a hearing before lawmakers break for the holidays. After all, they’ve still got an Impact Fee bill to figure out.


  • Penguin5b

    NPR needs to be defunded NOW. Let’s see…George Soros, ultra-progressive, ultra liberal, gives 1.8 million to NPR to start his pet project called “State Impact”. Now go to the NPR site, specifically the State Impact area. Look who else is currently funding it:

    Doris Duke Charitable Foundation
    Ethics & Excellence in Journalism Foundation
    The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
    The Melville Charitable Trust
    Open Society Foundation
    The Wallace Foundation
    Ultra progressives all. Now, does any honest-thinking person actually believe that reporting born of this parentage will be fair and balanced? Anyone? If you doubt me just visit the sites of the 8 different states covered by State Impact and look at the issues focused on and the slanted coverage thereof.

    Here in PA the major focus is drilling the Marcellus shale. EVERY SINGLE STORY is a hit piece against the industry and are little more than op/ed columns. State Impact? Couldn’t “impact” be both good and bad? Then where are the stories about how drilling has benefited PA? Jobs, tax revenue, economic plusses, less reliance on foreign energy, among others. Surely these things should rate at least a story or two every now and then.

    But I’m sure Scott Detrow and Suzy Phillps would like to keep their jobs. And when your bosses are Soros and Ann Beeson, well you just better be sure to toe the line.

    So how about it Scott &Suzy? How about a little balance? Surely not every person in PA is against drilling. Maybe you could find a few and stick your mic in their faces, as repulsive as you find this to be. You see, if you really want your stories to have the “impact” that Soros/Beeson intended with their grant, here’s what to do: Practice some honest, objective journalism and print of few of those stories I mentioned. That way, your hit pieces will actually have more legitimacy by comparison. Get it? I’m not sure that Soros/Beeson will be pleased, but if they remove you from the project at least you’ll have the satisfaction that you actually performed what you got into the journalism business to do – tell the truth.

    • Allegheny Redhorse

      Two sides to every story.  Watch Fox and their “friends” and see how they portray it.  No environmental impact, no community impact, drilling is good and benefits everyone (well those who are making the money anyway).  We don’t need regulation …….  The benefits side gets plenty of coverage.   

      Every day I see the impact of poorly regulated coal mining from 60 years ago and how that is STILL polluting streams to the point that nothing lives in them.  I STILL see the impact from the O & G industry on leases drilled years ago before deep gas and how that is still impacting water resources. Last week I documented brine dumping from new shallow oil wells recently drilled on State lands by a private firm. Thinking that the “free market” will behave appropriately is a pipe dream.  Maybe talk to the folks in Dimock and see what they have to say?   

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