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Judge Rejects Feds’ Demand for More Delay on Federal Energy Lease

Oct 08, 2015 | by William Perry Pendley

DENVER, CO.  A Louisiana man issued a federal oil and gas lease in 1982, but denied the right to explore his property since the initial approval of his application for permit to drill (APD) in 1985 today won a court order requiring prompt decisions by federal officials.  Sidney Longwell of Baton Rouge, whose company Solenex, LLC owns the Reagan-era lease, sued Secretary of the Interior Jewell and Interior and Agriculture Department officials in federal district court in the District of Columbia.  Mr. Longwell, represented by Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF), charges officials unlawfully withheld and unreasonably delayed the action necessary to permit him to exercise rights granted him by the lease, which was issued by the Bureau of Land Management on 6,247 acres in the Lewis and Clark National Forest in Glacier County, Montana.  A decade was spent winning approval to drill but, for 22 years, officials suspended the lease.  In July of 2015, the court ordered a plan for “expeditious resolution.”  Today’s order followed a hearing on October 6 where the court demanded speedy action.

"We are gratified that the district court recognizes the outrageousness of demands by federal officials to add two more years to the already abusive, intolerable, and unlawful 29 year delay,” said William Perry Pendley of MSLF.   

In June 1982, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued Mr. Longwell a 6,247 acre oil and gas lease on federal land in northwestern Montana.  In 1983, Mr. Longwell assigned the lease to America Petrofina Company of Texas, which later became Fina Oil and Chemical Company.  In October 1983, Fina submitted an application for permit to drill near Hall Creek, approximately 2 miles south of U.S. Highway 2 to evaluate the natural gas potential of that portion of the Overthrust Belt.

After extensive review pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), amidst appeals, and following a ruling by the Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLM), in consultation with the U.S. Forest Service, the BLM approved the APD in 1985, 1987, 1991, and finally in January 1993.

In June 1993, the Secretary of the Interior suspended activity on the lease purportedly to permit Congress to act.  In 1994 and 1995 the Secretary extended the suspension awaiting congressional action.  Then, in 1996, the Secretary continued the suspension, purportedly to comply with the National Historic Preservation Act.  In 1997, the Secretary extended that suspension and finally, in 1998, continued it indefinitely. 

In 1999, FINA assigned its rights under the approved APD and lease back to Mr. Longwell.  In July 2004, he assigned his rights to Solenex, which, in May 2013, asked that the suspension be lifted; the request was denied.

Mountain States Legal Foundation, created in 1977, is a nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation dedicated to individual liberty, the right to own and use property, limited and ethical government, and the free enterprise system.  Its offices are in suburban Denver, Colorado.

For more information:  Solenex, LLC v. Jewell


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