Minard Run Oil Co. v. U.S. Forest Serv., No. 10-1265 (3d Cir. 2011)Annotate this Case
The Forest Service manages the surface of the Allegheny National Forest, but most mineral rights are privately owned. From 1980 until recently the Service cooperated with owners to manage drilling; owners would provide advance notice and the Service would issue a Notice to Proceed. As a result of a settlement with environmental groups, the Service changed its policy and postponed issuance of NTPs until a multi-year, Environmental Impact Study under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA, 42 U.S.C. 4332(C)) is complete. The district court issued a preliminary injunction against the Service, requiring it to return to its prior process. The Third Circuit affirmed. The Service does not have the broad authority it claims over private mineral rights owners' access to surface lands. Its special use regulations do not apply to outstanding rights; the limited regulatory scheme applicable to most reserved rights in the ANF does not impose a permit requirement. Although the Service is entitled to notice, and may request and negotiate accommodation of its state-law right to due regard, its approval is not required for surface access. The moratorium causes irreparable injury to owners by depriving them of unique oil and gas extraction opportunities.
The court issued a subsequent related opinion or order on March 7, 2012.