Advisory Panel Hears Public Input on Drilling Lease

Lifting the lease suspension could trigger an environmental review, pushing drilling to 2017

By Dillon Tabish

HELENA — An advisory panel is considering proposed oil and gas drilling on land near Glacier National Park that is sacred to Native Americans, and heard public input ahead of its recommendation.

Dozens who attended a public meeting Wednesday spoke against the lease that was granted in the 1980s to Solenex LLC. The lease was suspended in 1997 and the company filed a lawsuit in 2013 to get it reinstated.

The advisory panel will make a recommendation to the Forest Service on Sept. 21, taking into account the effect drilling would have on the area’s historic land.

Solenex attorney Steve Lechner testified the area is far from pristine, with pipelines, power lines and proximity to the highway.

Lifting the lease suspension could trigger an environmental review, pushing drilling to 2017.

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