U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., introduced legislation Tuesday aimed to protect privately held mineral rights on the Allegheny National Forest.
“This is a piece of legislation I have been working on for some time,” Thompson told The Era, “given the threats that we have had to private property owners, typically within the ANF where subsurface rights are held by private individuals.
“What this bill does is provides clarity to the regulatory process,” he explained. “It respects the longstanding tradition of access to privately held mineral rights.”
A lawsuit filed by Minard Run Oil Co. against the U.S. Forest Service and several environmental groups in 2009 regarding access to private mineral rights on the national forest. Years of litigation later, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s ruling in favor of Minard Run Oil.
Thompson said the legislation he introduced codifies the courts’ rulings.
“The courts held and affirmed the Forest Service does not have the authority to regulate oil and gas production when those rights are held by private individuals,” Thompson said.
“What I did was put that court ruling into the formal legislation,” the congressman added.
His legislation, House Resolution 3881 or the “Cooperative Management of Mineral Rights Act of 2015,” repeals part of the Energy Policy Act of 1992.
“That bill included a provision to allow the Forest Service to rewrite rules pertaining to privately held mineral rights in the ANF,” Thompson said.
“The courts have agreed that it is just not appropriate given the importance that property rights have,” he added. “This legislation I introduced today is going to put this issue to rest by correcting the existing law.”
Those who would infringe upon property rights were dealt some harsh words by the congressman.
“I think private property in our nation is part of what defines us as a nation,” Thompson said. “We have those who have a hostile agenda for attacking private property rights and then we have those who have a hostile agenda for stopping domestic energy production.
“We’ve wasted a lot of taxpayers’ dollars in fighting this frivolous litigation,” he said. “This legislation will stop that.”
The Cooperative Management of Mineral Rights Act of 2015 is about protecting private property rights and ensuring America’s energy independence, the congressman added.
“In our area it’s also about jobs and a robust economy,” Thompson said. “Perhaps by getting this legislation bill enacted we can save some taxpayers’ dollars.”
He indicated he had spoken about the bill Tuesday morning on the House floor. “And I had support expressed even as I was leaving the well of the floor, colleagues were asking about signing on to the bill.”