Court Puts Badger-Two Medicine Suit on Hold

Attorneys for government, leaseholder seek to resolve the case outside court

By Tristan Scott
The Badger-Two Medicine area near the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Beacon File Photo

A federal judge has postponed a lawsuit over a disputed energy lease near Glacier National Park until early January, after attorneys on both sides of the dispute announced they were working to resolve the case outside of court.

The latest legal development comes on the heels of the Interior Department’s announcement last month that it plans to cancel the 6,200-acre lease in the Badger-Two Medicine area south of Glacier Park, the rights to which are owned by Solenex LLC of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

The lease was granted in 1982 on land considered sacred to the Blackfeet tribes of the U.S. and Canada.

Drilling has since been mired in repeated bureaucratic delays, prompting Solenex to sue the government in 2013.

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon wrote in a Dec. 3 order that the case would be stayed until Jan. 8. He ordered the two sides to return with recommendations on how the case should proceed, or whether more time would be needed for negotiations.

Neither side would disclose details about what issues are being discussed, though Solenex’s attorneys previously said that if the leases are canceled, they would seek compensation for their client.

Attorneys for the government have said the lease was improperly issued, in part because an environmental study did not consider the impact on the tribes of drilling.

The lease is on the site of the creation story for the Blackfoot tribes of southern Canada and the Blackfeet Nation of Montana. It’s located just west of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.

Dozens more oil and gas leases were initially sold in the area, but over the years, most were retired or surrendered by their owners.

Seventeen remaining leases were not addressed in court filings in which the government said it planned to move quickly to cancel the Solenex lease. Interior officials have not disclosed their plans for the remaining leases.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recommended canceling all the leases in an Oct. 30 letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

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