Burcat quoted in Legal Intelligencer article on implications of third circuit drilling ruling
Joel R. Burcat, chair of the Oil and Gas Practice, was quoted in this article discussing a recent U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit’s ruling restricting the U.S. Forest Service’s regulatory authority over drilling in the Allegheny National Forest. The decision reaffirms the longstanding legal theory that mineral rights owners have primacy over surface owners and could potentially apply more broadly to other federally-owned land.
Joel said, “It’s not one of these deals where Judge Rendell issues an opinion and it turns the law on its head. It essentially returns to the status quo that had been in existence for 30 years.” He noted that when the Forest Service originally purchased the Allegheny National forest land in the decades following the enactment of the Weeks Act (which authorized the federal government to purchase state land to be preserved as forest land), it only bought the surface rights and did not insert any language into the deeds to give the agency any more control over the mineral rights than a typical surface owner would have. He went on to say that the federal government may be restricted in regulating the mineral rights with regard to other land it similarly purchased under the Weeks Act.