Environment | Law

Energy firm still seeking to drill on sacred Blackfeet Nation land






Badger Creek in the Badger-Two Medicine Area in Montana. Photo by Blackfeet Nation

An energy company is asking a federal judge to revive a drilling lease on sacred Blackfeet Nation territory in Montana.

Solonex LLC was awarded the 6,200-acre lease in the early 1980s, during the Reagan administration. But the firm has never been able to drill for oil and gas in the sacred Badger-Two Medicine Area amid concerns raised by the tribe.

After a testy court fight, the Obama administration ended up canceling the lease in March, citing the potential for "irreparable" damage to the sacred area. But Solonex contends the action was unlawful and has asked a judge in Washington, D.C., to reinstate the lease.

"In an administration known for its lawless and disrespect for constitutional guarantees and the provisions of federal statute, the actions taken by the Obama administration regarding our client’s lease ... shock the conscience," William Perry Pendley, the president of the Mountain States Legal Foundation, which is representing Solonex, said in a press release last month.

Attorneys for the Obama administration responded to Solonex's claims on Monday, the Associated Press reported. They are defending the decision by the Interior Department to cancel the lease.

The "area was and remains 'one of the most cultural and religiously significant areas to the Blackfeet People since time immemorial,'" the Department of Justice wrote in a motion for summary judgement, quoting from a Blackfeet Nation resolution.

The Badger-Two Medicine Area consists of about 129,500 acres within the Lewis and Clark National Forest. The land was once part of the Blackfeet Nation but the tribe believes an 1885 treaty and an 1895 agreement protect its rights to use the land for ceremonies, hunting, fishing and other activities.

Read More on the Story:
US asks judge to uphold cancellation of Montana energy lease (AP 10/4)
Interior Defends Badger-Two Medicine Lease Cancellation (Montana Public Radio 10/4)
Federal judge asked to restore cancelled energy lease in sacred tribal area (Fox News 9/16)

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