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Company Attempts to Restore Oil Lease on Tribal Land

Attorneys for a Louisiana oil and gas firm have requested that a federal judge reinstate a drilling Lease on territory prized by Native American tribes in both Canada and the United States.The long-contested energy license in northwestern Montana’s Badger-Two Medicine region, near the Blackfeet Reservation, was revoked in 2016 by the-U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. Last year, a federal appeals court affirmed that ruling.

Now, Solenex LLC, the firm that owned the Lease, is attempting to persuade a court to reinstate its drilling rights. Attorneys for the Interior Department contended in court filings filed Thursday in a lawsuit against the department that Jewell abused her power and that the Lease should be reinstated.

Glacier National Park’s Badger-Two-Medicine portion depicts the Blackfoot tribes of Montana’s Blackfeet Nation and southern Canada’s genesis narrative. There have been proposals to designate it as a national monument or a cultural heritage site, and tribal elders have spoken out against Solenex’s drilling ambitions.The Blackfeet have interfered in the case on the government’s behalf. According to John Murray, the Blackfeet Nation’s historic preservation officer, tribe authorities are confident in their case against drilling.

“We knew they were still going to try to drill,” Murray explained. “We have some excellent lawyers on our team. I believe we will triumph.”According to Solenex’s counsel, the government illegally “outsourced” its judgments by deferring to the tribe’s demands to halt drilling. They said that if drilling were to go forward, officials should have examined strategies to mitigate or balance the effects.

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