Third Circuit affirms final declaratory relief to energy resource producers in Marcellus Shale region, vacating harmful U.S. Forest Service/Sierra Club Settlement.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit on September 26 affirmed final declaratory relief against U.S. Forest Service efforts to prevent the exercise of private mineral rights on split-estate lands in the 500,000-acre Allegheny National Forest (ANF). In so doing, the court upheld a district court’s order vacating a 2009 Settlement Agreement between the Forest Service and the Sierra Club and other environmental groups, which had imposed a Forest-wide drilling ban.

The series of favorable rulings in Minard Run Oil Co. and PIOGA v. U.S. Forest Service, et al. has significance for development of oil and gas (including Marcellus Shale gas) in split-estate situations created under the federal Weeks Act and, more generally, for businesses seeking to challenge unlawful action by federal agencies and environmental groups’ support for such action. Since 2009, Crowell & Moring has been lead counsel for the victorious plaintiffs, including the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association.

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Pennsylvania Independent Oil & Gas Association President & Executive Director Louis D. D’Amico today issued the following statement regarding a unanimous decision by the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold previous rulings that rejected environmental organizations’ arguments over the U.S. Forest Service’s efforts to limit access to privately held mineral rights on the Allegheny National Forest:

“The courts have — yet again — upheld the rights of oil and gas producers to have reasonable access to sub-surface minerals and rejected the sham settlement that was schemed by the U.S. Forest Service with two organizations intent on shutting down one of northwestern Pennsylvania’s most important economic engines.  Enough is enough.  Our industry is producing the oil and gas that our nation demands in a safe and responsible manner, providing jobs that support hundreds of thousands of families and creating a more secure energy future for future generations in the U.S. These organizations should learn that hyperbole does not make for a sound legal argument, as was the case with the latest decision by the Third Circuit Court.”