Thompson Submits Official Comment on ANF Forest Plan - Calls for Immediate Action on Oil and Gas Permitting

Washington, DC – U.S. Representative Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson, this afternoon delivered a letter to Kent Connaughton, Regional Forester for the United States Forest Service (USFS), outlining his concerns with the review process currently in place for oil and natural gas permits on the Allegheny National Forest (ANF). Thompson submitted these comments in response to the USFS Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the ANF, pursuant to Federal Register Document E9–3862, February 27, 2009.

In part, Thompson wrote, “…I remain alarmed by the suspension of notices to proceed with regard to oil and gas leases located in the ANF.  The subsurface rights belong to private individuals in Pennsylvania and the Federal Government has no right to unnecessarily deny them further access to their property.  Beyond the clearly questionable property rights issue, the unorthodox actions being taken by the USFS have created substantial and truly adverse affects upon the rural economy of North Western Pennsylvania and the overall management efforts of the Forest Service in the ANF.”

As explained to the Congressman by the USFS, notices to proceed, which were previously reviewed locally in the Warren Office of the ANF, are now being routed through the regional office in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, due to a lawsuit filed against the USFS. Not one notice to proceed has been issued since this new process was implemented on January 16, 2009 – some 73 days ago.  Thompson issued the following statement:

“The ANF is a national treasure – one that should be celebrated for its natural beauty and for the abundant surface and subsurface resources that it possesses. The ANF has operated for 86 years, where a healthy working relationship between the subsurface mineral owners and the Federal Government has evolved. There is no reason this dynamic should change. 

“This is more than just a forest. It is an economic engine, where job growth has been hampered and the regional economy has suffered as a result of this change in policy.

“By submitting this letter of official comment, which was accompanied by real life stories of how this is adversely impacting small businesses, jobs, and the overall morale and economy of the region, it is my hope that permits will be issued in the near future and folks can get back to work.”

According to the Warren County Chamber of Business & Industry, the current delay in issuing permits has resulted in the elimination of 150 direct and 100 indirect jobs. Thompson has been actively working with the USFS and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to see that this issue is resolved in a timely matter.