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Louisiana Man Appears in Federal Court to Defend Reagan Era Contract

Mar 14, 2018 | by William Perry Pendley

Mountain States Legal Foundation represents a Baton Rouge man whose oil and gas lease was cancelled illegally by the Obama administration after decades of “Kafkaesque” delay.

DENVER, CO.  A Louisiana man issued a federal oil and gas lease in 1982 but denied the right to explore his property since first approval of his application for permit to drill (APD) in 1985, today had his case argued before a District of Columbia federal district court.  Sidney Longwell of Baton Rouge, whose company Solenex, LLC owns the Reagan-era lease urged the district court to hold unlawful and set aside the cancellation of his 33-year-old lease and disapproval of his 23-year-old approved APD, which was suspended by the Reagan administration in 1985.  Solenex sued Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell as well as Interior and Agriculture Department officials in 2013.  In June of 2015, the judge called the federal government’s 29-year delay, “Kafkaesque.”  In July of 2015, the district court ruled the delay illegal as a matter of law and demanded an expedited decision.  The delay ended in a March 16, 2016, hearing when the court demanded a decision in 24 hours. 

“The Secretary admits she has no authority from Congress to cancel an energy lease after arguing for 33 years it is valid,” said William Perry Pendley, president of Mountain States Legal Foundation.  “Instead, she says she has inherent power under the Property Clause, which is nonsense because the Property Clause only grants power to Congress.”

In June of 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—later Fina Oil and Chemical Company.  In October of 1983, Fina submitted an application for permit to drill near Hall Creek, 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), in consultation with the U.S. Forest Service, the BLM approved the APD in 1985, 1987, 1991, and for the fourth time in January of 1993.

Notwithstanding the four approvals, in June of 1993, the Secretary of the Interior continued the suspension on an annual basis until the Secretary continued the suspension indefinitely in 1998. 

In 1999, FINA assigned its rights under the approved APD and lease back to Mr. Longwell.  In July of 2004, he assigned his rights to Solenex, which, in May of 2013, filed suit to end the nearly 3-decade suspension.

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. Zinke

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