Court upholds cancellation of last remaining oil and gas leases near Glacier National Park

Court upholds cancellation of last remaining oil and gas leases near Glacier National Park
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A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld the suspension of the last two remaining oil and gas leases near Glacier National Park in Montana.

Oil and gas development in the Badger-Two Medicine region just outside the park has been tied up in lawsuits for years, with many other oil and gas companies abandoning plans to drill in the area, which is considered sacred to the Blackfeet Tribe and has since been designated a traditional cultural district.

"Today’s ruling shows that these companies and their lawyers were not just on the wrong side of history but were also on the wrong side of the law when they waged their 40-year crusade to drill our ancestral land," the tribe said in a statement.

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The company pursuing drilling, Solenex, was once represented by William Perry Pendley, now the acting head of the Bureau of Land Management. The decision vacates the company’s rights to the 6,200-acre lease.

“This ruling rightly rejects Solenex’s effort to resurrect an illegal oil and gas lease that never should have been issued in the first place," Tim Preso, an Earthjustice attorney who represented the tribal and conservation groups in the suit, said in a release. "The value of the Badger-Two Medicine region is in its wild beauty and irreplaceable cultural significance for the Blackfeet Nation — not in oil and gas.”

Solenex’s suit complained of numerous administrative delays and legal hurdles faced in the process to begin leasing.

But the court ruled those delays did not make the Interior Department's earlier cancellation of the lease arbitrary and capricious.

“Given those significant disclosures, warnings, and conditions, as well as clear advance notice of the analyses that would be required prior to any drilling authorization, it is no surprise that the drilling application was delayed,” the decision said.