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Drilling conducted by the oil and gas industry in the 512,000-acre Allegheny National Forest has resumed while a number of court challenges against the drilling operation find their way through the federal courts. This was revealed by an industry lawyer on Tuesday.
Matthew Wolford, a lawyer representing the Allegheny Forest Alliance and the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association, said that the order made by an Erie federal judge in December of 2009 has made it clear that corporations do not need any permission to drill from the U.S. Forest Service.
Wolford also said, “That’s been the law in Pennsylvania for over 100 years.”
A national spokesman for the Forest Service, Joe Walsh, refused to comment.
The ruling of U.S. District Judge Sean McLaughlin has cleared the way for drilling operations. However, according to Wolford, the ruling did not stop the stall tactics of the agency.
When a company has plans of drilling in the forest, it must notify the agency. Those notices are supposed to be responded to by the Forest Service within 60 days. However, in most cases, Wolford said that it takes the agency between seven and eight months to respond.
“That gets a little bit old, as you can imagine,” said Wolford.
In September, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling of McLaughlin, effectively allowing other legal challenges to move forward. Seven Federal lawsuits have been filed by industry and environmental groups since 2007, raising points of arguments on how drilling is done in the national forest.