Attorneys for a Louisiana oil and gas company have asked a federal judge to reinstate a drilling lease it held on land considered sacred to Native American tribes in the U.S. and Canada.
The long-disputed energy lease in the Badger-Two Medicine area of northwestern Montana near the Blackfeet Reservation was cancelled in 2016 under then-U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. That decision was upheld by a federal appeals court last year.
Now Solenex LLC — the company that held the lease — is making another run at getting a court to restore its drilling rights. In court documents filed Thursday in a lawsuit against the Interior Department, its attorneys argued that Jewell exceeded her authority and the lease should be reinstated.
Solonex lost big in court this week in their effort to retain their oil and gas lease in the Badger-Two Medicine. Unless the case goes to the Supreme Court, that puts paid to the last lease in the region . . .
A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. upheld the cancellation of the last remaining federal oil and gas lease in Montana’s Badger-Two Medicine region adjacent to Glacier National Park on Tuesday. The historic decision protects lands and waters sacred to the Blackfeet and critical for wildlife habitat, advocates for the region noted.
The 6,200-acre lease, held by Louisiana-based Solenex LLC, was one of many issued by the federal government in the early 1980s. Since then, with the leases under suspension for environmental and cultural review, other companies voluntarily retired all holdings in the Badger-Two Medicine, noting the area’s rich natural and cultural values. Solenex, however, filed a 2013 lawsuit demanding the right to begin drilling in the Badger-Two Medicine backcountry.
In March 2016, the Obama Administration responded to that Solenex demands by canceling the company’s holding, saying the lease had been improperly issued in violation of environmental law and without required tribal consultation. Solenex again sued, seeking to overturn that decision, and a federal district court ruled for the company in September 2018, reinstating Solenex’s lease. But today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit reversed that ruling, and restored the cancellation of the Solenex lease.
In their ruling, the Appeals Court judges fully vacated the lower court’s judgment . . .
Some good news for the Badger-Two Medicine region: Moncrief Oil has retired their oil and gas lease. Only the Solonex leases remain in contention . . .
One of two contentious oil and gas leases is no longer a threat to a sacred wild land south of Glacier National Park.
On Tuesday, the Wilderness Society announced it had reached an out-of-court settlement with Moncrief Oil to permanently retire a 7,640-acre oil and gas lease in the Badger-Two Medicine area of the Lewis and Clark National Forest. That leaves one 6,200-acre lease owned by Solonex LLC still in play.
“The Wilderness Society thanks Mr. W.A. Moncrief, Jr. for his willingness to negotiate, and we are pleased to have been able to secure the retirement of this lease. We look forward to working with our partners in the Blackfeet Nation and other stakeholders to obtain permanent protections for this important area of our nation’s public lands,” said Wilderness Society president Jamie Williams in a statement.
The BLM had a bad day in court this week when a bunch of oil leases they’d sold in central and southern Montana got canceled . . .
A federal judge on Friday canceled nearly 300 oil and gas leases in Montana because government officials failed to properly study the risks of all that drilling to the environment and water supply.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management sold 287 leases covering approximately 227 square miles of public land in central and eastern Montana in 2017 and in 2018. The agency’s environmental reviews concluded that drilling would carry minimal risk to the areas’ natural resources.
Three residents and two environmental groups sued in 2018, saying the agency didn’t consider the risks of shallow hydraulic fracturing on groundwater or the cumulative effects of adding hundreds of drilling sites to the landscape. They also said the agency did not address the leases effects on the release of greenhouse gases and climate change.
As we mentioned yesterday, the latest chapter in the battle over oil and gas leases in the Badger-two Medicine region opened with oral arguments before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.
The Missoulian has an excellent report on the hearing . . .
The legal battle over oil-drilling leases in the Badger-Two Medicine area continued Tuesday, with attorneys for the leaseholder accusing the U.S. government of “arbitrary and capricious” behavior and lawyers for local environmental groups emphasizing the land’s environmental and cultural importance before the U.S. Court of Appeals.
Reagan-era drilling leases in the Badger-Two Medicine, a territory next to the Blackfeet reservation held sacred by members of that tribe, have drawn controversy for years. In late 2016 and early 2017, the Bureau of Land Management cancelled the leases held by Solenex LLC and W.A. Moncrief, Jr., drawing a lawsuit from those firms. In September 2018, Judge Richard Leon in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered them reinstated.
In the legal wrangling that followed, Moncrief reached a settlement and agreed to relinquish its leases. But Louisiana-based Solenex is still defending its lease from appeals filed by the federal government and a coalition of Montana environmental groups, represented by Earthjustice. The U.S. Court of Appeals heard oral arguments from attorneys representing that group, the federal government and Solenex Monday.
The next chapter in the battle over oil and gas leases in the Badger-two Medicine region opens today with oral arguments before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.
The Flathead Beacon has a good article, including links to online information . . .
Last October, leaders of the Blackfeet Nation celebrated a major victory in their mission to furnish permanent protections on the Badger-Two Medicine area when Moncrief Oil relinquished an energy lease spanning more than 7,000 acres along the Rocky Mountain Front.
The news provided a capstone to a monumental effort by the Blackfeet and numerous other stakeholders determined to preserve one of the last best places and rid the region of the looming threat posed by energy holdings.
It also meant that one oil-and-gas leaseholder still remained in the Badger-Two Medicine area, a place held sacred by the Blackfeet and which provides habitat to a range of wildlife, including grizzly bears, wolves, wolverine, elk, and cutthroat trout. It serves as the headwaters of two drainages, Badger Creek and the South Fork Two Medicine River, which together water the reservation and the northern plains of Montana.
Well, now. This is good news. Moncrief Oil relinquished their drilling lease in the The Badger-Two Medicine region Tuesday, leaving only one, stubborn holdout: Solonex . . .
Leaders of the Blackfeet Nation on Tuesday celebrated another victory in their mission to furnish permanent protections on the sacred Badger-Two Medicine area after Moncrief Oil relinquished an energy lease spanning more than 7,000 acres along the Rocky Mountain Front.
With the announcement of the relinquishment of Moncrief’s lease, there remains only one oil and gas leaseholder in the Badger Two Medicine area, Solenex LLC. The company’s 6,200-acre lease was cancelled by the government in 2016, but reinstated in 2018 after the D.C. District Court ruled in favor of Solenex. The case is currently in the United States Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.
Still, the news on Tuesday prompted an outpouring of gratitude from members of the Blackfeet Nation, for whom the Badger-Two Medicine carries deep historical and cultural significance, as well as from conservation groups intent on preserving the area’s ecological heritage.
Oh, boy. A property rights lawyer with significant connections to Solonex just got appointed as Deputy Director of Policy and Programs for the Bureau of Land Management, We’re talking a major, let the fox guard the henhouse, conflict of interest in the ongoing lawsuit over oil and gas leases in the Badger-Two Medicine . . .
An attorney for an oil company that is suing the federal government to drill for oil and gas in the Badger-Two Medicine region just south of Glacier National Park was recently named Deputy Director of Policy and Programs for the Bureau of Land Management, drawing charges that there’s a clear conflict of interest in the case.
William Perry Pendley, was a longtime attorney for the Mountain States Legal Foundation, which represents the Solonex Corp.
As of 2018, Pendley was listed as the attorney of record for Solonex, though the Foundation’s website no longer lists him as an attorney with the organization and his BLM profile makes no mention that he long argued cases for the Foundation.
This is likely not as bad as it sounds. The feds are going to dig in and fight the Solonex lease in the Badger-Two Medicine region. The Moncrief lease doesn’t even have a permit to drill and would require a huge battle just to get past that step. I’d guess the government made the pragmatic determination to concentrate their resources on the larger threat. If they win against Solonex, the Moncrief lease is probably toast, too.
Anyway, here’s the write-up . . .
In a dramatic change of course, attorneys representing the U.S. Department of the Interior filed paperwork announcing they will not defend the cancellation of one of the last remaining oil and gas leases on the 130,000-acre Badger-Two Medicine, an area flanking Glacier National Park that holds cultural and ecological significance to members of the Blackfeet Nation.
Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, a Whitefish native, had previously said he would defend the lease cancellations.
While members of the Blackfeet Nation expressed disappointment and frustration in the Interior’s decision not to fight an appeal by lease-owner W.A. Moncrief Jr, the Interior Department is expected to defend the cancellation of a second lease held by Solenex LLC of Baton Rouge, which is also being fought on appeal.
The U.S. Department of the Interior came through on their promises and filed a notice of appeal in the legal dispute over gas and oil drilling leases in the Badger-Two Medicine region . . .
Attorneys representing the U.S. Department of the Interior, tribal and environmental groups Tuesday filed a notice of appeal challenging a federal judge’s decision to reinstate the last remaining oil and gas leases on the Badger-Two Medicine, an area flanking Glacier National Park that holds cultural and ecological significance to members of the Blackfeet Nation.
The filings in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia come just days before the Nov. 23 deadline, and preserve the government’s right to appeal Judge Richard J. Leon’s Sept. 24 order overturning the 2016 cancellation of leases held by Solenex LLC of Baton Rouge, Louisiana and W.A. Moncrief Jr. in the Badger-Two Medicine area, a 130,000-acre swath of land between Glacier, the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area and the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.
The leases were originally canceled by the Interior Department under President Barack Obama, but Leon ruled that action was improper.