Judge allows gas drilling in NW Pa. national forest

ERIE, Pa. -- A federal judge in Erie says oil and gas drilling can resume in the Allegheny National Forest and that U.S. Forest Service officials were wrong to ban it earlier this year.

The Forest Service agreed in April to temporarily halt drilling until an environmental assessment could be done. The Forest Service agreed to the ban to settle litigation brought by environmentalists.

But U.S. District Judge Sean McLaughlin on Tuesday ruled that the Forest Service can't require environmental assessments before drillers can access their mineral rights beneath the forest. The oil and gas companies said they stood to lose millions of dollars under the ban.

The judge's 53-page ruling also overturns the earlier settlement with the environmental groups.

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