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A judge reinstated an oil and gas lease on land in northwestern Montana considered sacred to some tribes in the U.S. and Canada — a ruling that could test the depths of the Trump administration's support for the energy industry.
President Barack Obama's Interior Department improperly canceled the nearly 10-square-mile (26-square-kilometer) lease adjacent to Glacier National Park in 2016, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon in Washington, D.C., said this week.
Solenex - LLC - Baton - Rouge - Louisiana
Solenex LLC of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, holds the lease and wants to drill for gas. It's within the Badger Two-Medicine area of Lewis and Clark National Forest — site of the creation story of the Blackfoot tribes of southern Canada and Montana's Blackfeet Nation.
Solenex attorney William Perry Pendley urged President Donald Trump's administration to let the company proceed with drilling. He argued that a failure to reverse the Obama administration decision would leave all oil and gas leases granted under Trump in danger of being ended under future presidents.
Right - Leases - Pendley - Property - Right
"The right to drill on these leases cannot be denied," Pendley said. "This is a property right, and it's well settled: When you get a lease, the government is agreeing you have a right to drill."
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has made energy development a top priority. Zinke last year recommended designating the Badger-Two Medicine as a national monument, but that would not automatically bar drilling.
Government - Attorneys - Obama-era - Lease - Cancellation
Government attorneys who had defended the Obama-era lease cancellation in court were reviewing the ruling, which was issued late Monday, U.S. Justice Department spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle said Tuesday. He declined to comment on a potential appeal.
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