Badger Bulletin

In Renewed Legal Action, Solenex Seeks to Overturn Cancellation of Lease in Badger-Two Medicine

Badger Bulletin

In Renewed Legal Action, Solenex Seeks to Overturn Cancellation of Lease in Badger-Two Medicine


This past week Louisiana-based Solenex, LLC renewed in earnest its years-long legal effort to develop an oil and gas lease in the Badger-Two Medicine area outside Glacier National Park. The company’s latest effort to drill lands considered sacred by the Blackfeet Nation comes nearly six months after the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Department of Interior’s 2016 decision to cancel the lease.

The Circuit Court then remanded the case back to the District Court to resolve any outstanding legal issues. After allowing deadlines to appeal the Circuit Court decision to pass, including to the Supreme Court, Solenex has now petitioned the District Court to again consider whether the Secretary of Interior overstepped her authority when she canceled the lease, as well as other arguments it raised previously but the courts have declined to address.

Solenex then went a step further and filed a whole new lawsuit. The new suit challenges the Forest Service’s 2014 determination that any development of the lease threatened the integrity of the Blackfeet’s Traditional Cultural District that overlays the entire Badger-Two Medicine as well as the Interior Department’s corresponding determination that the effects of development could not be mitigated. The federal government’s determinations were based on extensive analysis of ethnographic data and testimony from Blackfeet traditionalists who have repeatedly, and patiently, maintained that the area’s spiritual power and cultural value reside in the unity of the land. Both would be irrevocably diminished or entirely lost if the area is divided into discrete sections of sacred and mundane as Solenex (and Western worldviews generally) want to do.

Ironically, the new suit also names William Perry Pendley in his official capacity as one of the defendants. Pendley, of course, represented Solenex earlier in these same legal proceedings when he was head of Mountain States Legal Foundation before leaving Mountain States to become Deputy Director for Policy and Programs at the Bureau of Land Management and the de facto head of the agency. Although Pendley officially recused himself from all matters pertaining to Solenex last year, his naming underscores why we believe he cannot be allowed to deny a judge’s order and continue to illegally lead the BLM.

Our Reaction

Fighting another round in this legal boxing match is certainly disappointing, but it is sadly not unexpected. Solenex and its legal team at Mountain States Legal Foundation have strongly indicated their intention to continue trading blows and have shown no interest in potential out of court settlements. The passing of company founder and patriarch Sidney Longwell in March only seems to have strengthened their resolve to stay in the ring long after every other company did the right thing and relinquished their leases in the area.

As we have since this all started in the early 1980s, Glacier-Two Medicine Alliance will continue to staunchly oppose any attempt to industrialize these incredible wild lands. Tribal sacred lands, pristine headwater streams, and outstanding wildlife habitat next to one of the nation’s most iconic national parks should not, and cannot, be developed into an industrial oil patch.

With excellent representation from Earthjustice, we will continue to intervene in support of the federal government and defend the cancellation of this lease. The Piikuni Traditionalists Association, the Blackfeet Headwaters Alliance, Montana Wilderness Association,, The National Parks Conservation Association, and The Wilderness Society continue to partner with us in this effort. Although justice may be delayed for the Blackfeet Nation, for the land, water and animals, and for everyone who would be adversely impacted should this lease be developed, we remain confident that justice will prevail and this lease will finally be retired permanently.

The Road Ahead

So where do we go from here? Last week, the district court judge issued a briefing schedule for what remains of Solenex’s existing lawsuit. The schedule moves the case expeditiously forward over the next six months. The judge has not yet indicated whether or not he will accept the new lawsuit, as is his discretion to do. Our legal team is moving to dismiss the new lawsuit on grounds that Solenex should have raised these arguments in its original suit years ago. We will keep you posted on any and all developments.

How You Can Help

Our sustained legal defense depends in large part on the generosity of individual donors. Please consider a gift of whatever amount fits your budget to support this effort today. Thank you!

Scroll to Top