More specifically, House Bill 1904 clarifies that national forest acquisition did not empower the federal government to limit the development of private oil, gas and mineral rights within Allegheny National Forest or supersede Pennsylvania laws governing water and mineral resources.
“When the Commonwealth approved the creation of Allegheny National Forest, it did so with the understanding that the federal government would respect and uphold the rights and interests of the individuals and companies who share ownership of this wonderful natural resource as required by law,” said Rapp. “The U.S. Forest Service’s most recent attempt, through its 2008 Land Resources Management program, undercut an effective regulatory policy that was designed to keep the federal government from blatantly trespassing on both the private property and day-to-day activities of private entrepreneurs where it has no authority to do so.”
House Bill 1904 recognizes and codifies the following:
- Two recent U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals decisions holding that the U.S. Forest Service has no right to apply new regulations to private mineral estates or property interests that it did not acquire when the national forest system was established under the Weeks Act of 1911.
- Rapp’s unanimously approved House Resolution 693 and state Sen. Mary Jo White’s unanimously approved Senate Resolution 294 which were adopted in April 2008 in response to the U.S. Forest Service’s (now suspended and enjoined federal agency/court action) to apply a federal regulatory regime against private mineral estates operating in the Allegheny National Forest.
- Preservation of the legal principles regarding application of Pennsylvania law to deed interpretations related to private mineral ownership rights within Allegheny National Forest.
- Federal government acquisition of the Allegheny National Forest did not and does in no way supersede, invalidate or modify statutory or common law of the Commonwealth regarding the storage, control, use or development of water resources located in the Allegheny National Forest.
“Current law and my legislation are crystal clear when it comes to restricting the amount of oil, natural gas and other resources that can be produced by non-government employers operating in Allegheny National Forest,” said Rapp. “The Weeks Act specifically prohibits such regulation, and there is no other state or federal law conferring such authority to the Forest Service or any other federal government agency.”
Letters expressing similar objections regarding federal infringement on private property rights in Allegheny National Forest have also been submitted to federal officials by Gov. Tom Corbett, and a bipartisan coalition of federal lawmakers that includes U.S. Senator Pat Toomey and U.S. Congressmen Glenn “GT” Thompson, Jason Altmire, Mark Critz and Tim Holden.
House Bill 1904 now advances to the full House floor for consideration.
“House Bill 1904 officially recognizes in legislative statute that the federal government is neither the chief executive officer, nor an equal stakeholder with private land owners or private industry in Allegheny National Forest,” said Rapp. “In reality, the Forest Service is a taxpayer funded servant that is legally bound from interfering with privately purchased mineral rights or private economic development.”