BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Attorneys for a Louisiana oil and fuel firm have requested a federal decide to reinstate a drilling lease it held on land thought of sacred to Native American tribes within the U.S. and Canada.
The long-disputed vitality lease within the Badger-Two Medication space of northwestern Montana close to the Blackfeet Reservation was cancelled in 2016 underneath then-U.S. Inside Secretary Sally Jewell. That call was upheld by a federal appeals court docket final yr.
Now Solenex LLC — the corporate that held the lease — is making one other run at getting a court docket to revive its drilling rights. In court docket paperwork filed Thursday in a lawsuit in opposition to the Inside Division, its attorneys argued that Jewell exceeded her authority and the lease ought to be reinstated.
Solenex founder Sidney Longwell, who died final yr, purchased the 10-square-mile (25-square kilometer) lease in 1982 however by no means drilled on the location. As an alternative, Longwell confronted main bureaucratic delays throughout the U.S. departments of Inside and Agriculture that prompted the corporate to sue in 2013.
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The Badger-Two-Medication space close to Glacier Nationwide Park is the location of the creation story of the Blackfoot tribes of southern Canada and Montana’s Blackfeet Nation. There have been efforts to declare it a nationwide monument or make it a cultural heritage space, and tribal leaders have bitterly opposed Solenex’s drilling aspirations.
The Blackfeet have intervened within the case on the facet of the federal government. Blackfeet Nation historic preservation officer John Murray mentioned tribal officers have been assured within the case in opposition to drilling.
“We knew they nonetheless wished to attempt to do drilling,” Murray mentioned. “We’ve obtained some good attorneys. I believe we’re going to prevail.”
Solenex attorneys mentioned the federal government unlawfully “outsourced” its selections by deferring to the tribe’s needs to dam drilling. They mentioned officers ought to have thought of methods drilling impacts may very well be lessened or offset if it have been to proceed.
Inside Division spokesperson Tyler Cherry declined to touch upon the case.
Solenex’s lawsuit is being waged by the Mountain States Authorized Basis, a Colorado-based agency that pursues instances involving property rights, weapons rights and different conservative causes.