15 oil and gas leases that were issued 30 years ago are now in the process of being cancelled. The Department of the Interior made the move to preserve 130,000 acres of land near Glacier National Park, in Montana.
Located in the Badger-Two Medicine area, the land is held sacred by members of the Blackfeet Indian Tribe in Montana, and the Blackfoot tribe in Canada. In addition to the spiritual component, the area is also home to grizzly bears and bighorn sheep.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell commented on Wednesday that the leases, which date back to the late 1980s, should never have been issued in the first place, adding that the move sets the tone for how leases should be issued in the future. The leases in question were held by Devon Energy, and the company has not drilled on them.
Company president David Hager agreed with Jewell, noting that Devon will receive around $200,000 in compensation. Montana Senator Jon Testor praised Devon for its willingness to cooperate with the decision by the Department of the Interior (DOI).
This is not the first cancellation in the Badger-Two Medicine area. In March of this year, the DOI cancelled a 6,200-acre lease owned by Solenex LLC of Baton Rouge. Unlike Devon, Solenex, which had plans to drill for gas on its lease, has challenged the decision by the DOI in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. There are still two oil and gas leases in the area, which are also slated for cancellation. But the cancellation efforts have been slowed by the fact that the federal government is so far, unable to locate the owners.
In light of Wednesday’s developments, and the ongoing going dispute between protestors in North Dakota and the Dakota Access Pipeline, Blackfeet Tribal Chairman Harry Barnes commented that the time had come for better negotiations between indigenous people and the government when it comes to accessing energy resources. Barnes stated that better methods of consultation with tribes needed to be found, adding that the Blackfeet Tribe is not opposed to oil and gas exploration, except when it occurs on the tribes’ sacred sites.
Lincoln Brown for Oilprice.com
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Lincoln Brown is the former News and Program Director for KVEL radio in Vernal, Utah. He hosted “The Lincoln Brown Show” and was penned a…