|Gas drilling in Pennsylvania's Tioga State Forest -- PennFuture photo|
Environmentalists, conservationists and others opposed to natural gas drilling in state and federal forests have been dealt a stinging defeat as a U.S. appeals court ruled that the owners of mineral rights in a national forest in Pennsylvania don't have to wait for an environmental study before drilling.
The 3rd U.S. Court of Appeals upheld a Pennsylvania district court's ruling that mineral rights owners don't have to wait for an environmental impact study from the U.S. Forest Service to start drilling in the Allegheny National Forest, according to a report by the Platts news service.
The U.S. Forest Service in 2009 opted to call for a long-term environmental impact assessment of the national forest as part of a settlement with the Sierra Club and other advocacy groups.
The Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Association and other groups sued to return to 1980 measures that require a 60-day notice before drilling operations begin.
The federal appeals court upheld the lower court's decision, saying the owners of mineral rights would suffer an undue burden while waiting years for the EIS.
Natural gas production from the Marcellus shale gas play in Pennsylvania was reported at 1.87 billion cubic feet per day during the first half of 2011, a 22 percent increase over production reported in the second half of 2010.