On Sept. 20, 2011, the U.S Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit filed its opinion affirming the preliminary injunction granted by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, in the case Minard Run Oil Co. v. United States Forest Service, No. 10-1265, argued on Jan. 27, 2011. The dispute involves private mineral rights owners' entitlement to "reasonable use of the surface" within the Allegheny National Forest (ANF). A recent settlement agreement between the U.S. Forest Service ("Service") and environmental groups changed management of drilling within the ANF from an ongoing cooperative process, to a postponement of all NTPs (Notice to Proceed) until completion of a forest-wide Environmental Impact Study (EIS), under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This "drastic" change in policy essentially creates a moratorium on new drilling in the ANF. The District Court preliminarily enjoined the Service from implementing the settlement policy, "prohibiting [the Service] from making the completion of the forest-wide EIS a condition for issuing NTPs and requiring it to return to its prior, cooperative process for issuing NTPs." Minard Run, No. 10-1265 (3d Cir. 2011). The Court of Appeals affirmed the injunction, holding, inter alia, that issuance of an NTP need not be preceeded by a NEPA analysis; and that the Service's implementation of the new policy did not conform with the notice and comment requirement of the Administrative Procedures Act.
Read the full Sept. 20, 2011, Court of Appeals Decision here.
Posted by Tanya J. Cramoy, Research Assistant