The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. ruled Tuesday that a lower court was wrong to reinstate a contentious oil and gas lease in the Badger-Two Medicine area near the Blackfeet Indian Reservation and Glacier National Park.
The U.S. The Department of Interior in 2016 canceled the remaining oil and gas leases in the Badger-Two Medicine, which is the sacred homeland of the bordering Blackfeet Nation.
Moncrief Oil and Solenex LLC took the Interior Department to court arguing that the agency lacked the authority to cancel the lease decades after it was issued. The lower court didn’t issue a decision on the agency’s authority, but ruled its delay in granting permission to drill violated federal law and reinstated the leases.
The latest appellate court ruling says that delay did not invalidate the Interior Department’s decision to cancel all leases in the area, and remanded the case back to the lower court.
Peter Metcalf is the Executive Director of the Glacier-Two Medicine Alliance.
"But by and large, this means we’re looking at an oil-and-gas-free Badger-Two Medicine for the first time since the early 1980s, which is an amazing, amazing feeling."
Metcalf says it’s unlikely for there to be any legal argument to reinstate the lease as Congress withdrew the Badger-Two Medicine from future oil and gas leasing in 2006.
John Murray is the Blackfeet Tribes Historical Preservation Officer.
"I was a young man when I got involved. I was kind of wondering whether I was going to see this day or not. It had gone on so long. I’m very, very happy."
Solenex became the last lease holder in the Badger-Two Medicine last year when Moncrief Oil relinquished its holding after it came to a financial agreement with environmental groups.
Mountain States Legal Foundation Attorney David McDonald, who represented the company, says he’s disappointed with the ruling and says Solenex is exploring its options to challenge the decision.