Settlement Will Result in Increased Protection for Allegheny National Forest from Destructive Oil and Gas Drilling
April 16, 2009
Sierra Club and its allies achieved a major victory on April 8 when they reached a settlement with the U.S. Forest Service that will result in tighter regulations for oil and gas drilling in the Allegheny National Forest. The Forest Service has agreed to assess the environmental impacts of all drilling projects in the Allegheny before approving them, effectively ensuring the public’s right to weigh in on all oil and gas development in the national forest. As a result of this settlement, the drilling projects are subject to environmental review and a public comment period under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Community members will now be able to work with the Forest Service to protect the Allegheny, its wildlife, and rare resources from the detrimental impacts of large-scale, unregulated oil and gas drilling. Approximately 440 oil and gas drilling projects pending approval before the agency have been postponed as a result of the litigation and settlement. This settlement is the result of a lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club, Allegheny Defense Project, and Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics, represented by attorney Marianne Dugan, challenging the agency’s failure to subject 34 proposed oil and gas projects to adequate review under NEPA.
March 3, 2009
On February 26, Sierra Club took another step to protect Allegheny National Forest’s trails, streams, and wildlife. Sierra Club proposed ways to improve drilling and mining practices in response to the Forest Service’s decision to rethink how it regulates mineral extraction on millions of acres of federal lands. The Club is urging the Forest Service to more aggressively regulate oil and gas drilling in Allegheny through a new permitting system that requires environmental assessment of all drilling impacts, strong protection for forest habitats and wildlife, and swift clean-up after work is done. Sierra Club also wants the Forest Service to ensure that the public is an integral part of the decision-making process.
The Allegheny particularly needs better management because oil and gas companies own the subsurface rights under more than 90 percent of the forest. Large-scale, unregulated drilling threatens habitat for a diverse array of wildlife species and is damaging a beloved tourist destination.
The Service has an important chance to improve this situation, and Sierra Club is confident that it will take action. As Sierra Club attorney, Craig Segall, said, "[t]he Forest Service still has a duty to make sure all uses of public land are wisely and properly done. There will be resource extraction. We want to make sure it's done right."
November 21, 2008
The U.S. Forest Service is allowing massive oil and gas drilling in the Allegheny National Forest without first assessing the environmental impacts of its projects or allowing the public to participate in the decision-making process. Since the mid-1990s, drilling has increased from about 100 new wells per year to about 1,300 wells per year. Thousands of miles of new roads have also been constructed to serve the oil and gas industry, causing further degradation of forested lands.
The Allegheny Forest Service refuses to approve this 10 foot long, 3 foot wide boardwalk across a wet area on the North Country National Scenic Trail constructed under an existing work agreement with the Forest Service. The Forest Service wants a NEPA study to be done.
This unfettered drilling has taken a serious toll on the Allegheny’s rich natural resources. The Forest Service has even admitted that oil and gas drilling poses a serious threat to the area’s wildlife, including the northern flying squirrel, eastern box turtle, wood turtle, timber rattlesnake, and several bird populations such as the cerulean warbler, great blue heron, and northern goshawk. This rampant drilling and associated road-building also causes erosion and water pollution, and noise caused by the drilling spoils visitors’ experience. Despite these impacts, the Forest Service does not prepare an Environmental Assessment when it approves the drilling.
Several proposed drilling projects await approval by the Forest Service, including two proposals by the U.S. Energy Development Corporation. The proposed Rimrock project would be located adjacent to the forest’s heavily visited Rimrock Overlook and Longhouse National Scenic Byway. Another project pending approval would involve drilling 103 new wells across 1,400 acres in an even more remote area of the forest.
By bringing this lawsuit, the Sierra Club, along with Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics and the Allegheny Defense Project, hope to reduce future impacts to forest resources, mitigate ongoing harm to wildlife and forest visitors, and reverse the Forest Service’s longstanding reckless practice of approving drilling projects without any environmental analysis or public input.
The view from the National Scenic Byway/Route 59. The Forest Service allowed Minard Run Oil Co. to construct roads and pump along the Scenic Byway w/o NEPA analysis.
Beaver Pond filled withcrude oil spill at Indian run
Details and Documents:
Forest Service Agrees to Conduct Environmental Review of Oil and Gas Drilling in Allegheny, Conservation Groups Hail Agreement
Sierra Club Press Release, April 10, 2009
To read the updated complaint click here!
Assessing The ANF: USFS embarking on forest-wide environmental assessment
April 22, 2009 by Brian Ferry, Times Observer
Settlement reached in Allegheny Forest gas drilling lawsuit
April 20, 2009 by Don Hopey, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
New forest drilling plans face long delay
April 14, 2009 by Ted Lutz, The Kane Republican
U.S. Forest Service settlement may not be over
April 13, 2009 by Kyle Milliron, The Bradford Era
Lawsuits, litigants unsettled
April 11, 2009 by Brian Ferry, Times Observer
U.S. Forest Service settles lawsuit Wednesday
April 10, 2009 by Kyle Milliron, The Bradford Era
Pa. forest drilling procedure suit settled
April 10, 2009 by Dan Nephin, SignOnSanDiego.com
Tighter rules eyed for national forests
February 27, 2009 by Don Hopey, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Peterson: They're at it again
November 21, 2008 by Brian Ferry, Times Observer
Forest Service Sued
November 21, 2008 by Chuck Hayes, Times Observer
Coalition sues Forest Service over NEPA analysis for oil and gas wells throughout Allegheny National Forest
November 21, 2008 by Kyle Milliron, The Bradford Era
See other "Fighting Dirty Oil and Promoting Green Transportation" cases.