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Glacier County Oil/Gas Lease Reinstated By BLM

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Glacier County Oil/Gas Lease Reinstated By BLM

In court documents filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, it was revealed that on May 31 the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) reinstated “federal oil and gas lease MTM 53320.”

The lease is in the name of W.A. Moncrief, Jr. of Fort Worth, Texas.

The Fairfield Sun Times first learned of the move by the BLM late Wednesday night as it reviewed a “Plaintiff-Appellee’s Response Brief” that was filed in a related case, Solenex, LLC v. David Bernhardt, et al and Blackfeet Headwaters Alliance, et al.

COVER PHOTO: Aerial view of Solenex Lease, 2015 Fairfield Sun Times

Photo taken in 2015 during a flyover of the area of the Solenex, LLC federal oil and gas lease in Glacier County, Montana. Fairfield Sun Times photo by Darryl L. Flowers

The BLM reinstatement notice was filed as an attachment to the brief that was submitted to the appeals court.

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Justice in the Moncrief case - that is also before the appeals court - filed a “Defendants-Appellees’ Suggestion of Mootness,” arguing that, since the Moncrief lease has been reinstated, as ordered by the lower court judge (U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Richard J. Leon), the matter before the appellate court is moot.

In the brief, the DOJ attorneys tell the appeals court:

Article III, § 2, of the Constitution limits the jurisdiction of federal courts to “Cases” and “Controversies,” which restricts the authority of federal courts to resolving “the legal rights of litigants in actual controversies.” Valley Forge Christian College v. Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Inc., 454 U.S. 464, 471 (1982).

Continuing, the government attorneys explained to the court:

“Here, Interior has reinstated the lease that it previously cancelled. Even if the district court’s judgment were reversed, it would be entirely up to Interior to exercise its discretion to cancel the lease once more. No statute compels Interior to exercise its lease cancellation authority. Accordingly, even if intervenors succeed in their appeal, a favorable outcome for them would not redress their asserted injuries. To the extent intervenors believe that the lease should be cancelled because it is legally infirm, they have not brought such a claim in this case; such a contention therefore would not provide an independent basis for their appeal to go forward.”

When District Court Judge Richard J. Leon made his ruling, the government filed an appeal. Later, the DOJ told the court that they wanted to withdraw the appeal in the Moncrief case. The Justice Department, however, continues their appeal in the Solenex case.

The Solenex and Moncrief leases are both in the Badger-Two Medicine area of Glacier County.

BLM APD site photo - Fairfield Sun Times FOIA Request

This undated photo shows a road near the APD (Approved Permit to Drill) drilling location on the Solenex, LLC federal oil and gas lease. The photo was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed with the Bureau of Land Management by the Fairfield [Montana] Sun Times.

The brief in the Solenex case was filed by Mountain States Legal Foundation attorneys David C. McDonald and Zhonette M. Brown; they were joined on the brief by Ivan L. London, an attorney with the Denver firm of Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner.

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The BLM reinstatement letter was sent to W.A. Moncrief, Jr. from Donato Judice of the Montana/Dakotas BLM State Office in Billings, Montana.

The letter reads:

"By letter dated January 6, 2017, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a decision cancelling your Federal oil and gas lease MTM 53320, in accordance with 43 CFR 3108.3(d), as being improperly issued in violation of National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act. You appealed our decision to the U. S. District Court for the District of Columbia. On September 24, 2018, the Court ordered that MTM 53320 be reinstated.

This reinstatement is being issued for the primary purpose of complying with the order of the District Court. The Department maintains its position argued before the Court and this letter should not be interpreted as a deviation from those positions.

This lease was issued June 1, 1982. At the time the lease was cancelled, there were four years and 1 month remaining in the term of the lease. The reinstatement of lease MTM 53320 is effective May 1, 2019. The new expiration date for the lease is May 31, 2023.”

The letter continues, informing Moncrief that $22,920.00 is due as an annual rental payment.

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