The Latest: Owner of canceled oil lease still wants to drill

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Posted: Mar 17, 2016 5:16 PM
The Latest: Owner of canceled oil lease still wants to drill

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The Latest on a disputed oil and gas lease outside Glacier National Park (all times local):

2:45 p.m.

The federal government is refunding a Louisiana company $31,235 after canceling a Montana oil and gas lease it's been seeking to develop for more than 33 years.

The head of the law firm representing Solenex LLC of Baton Rouge says the 6,200-acre lease is worth far more.

William Perry Pendley with the Mountain States Legal Foundation says the company will continue its court fight to drill on the site in the Badger-Two Medicine wilderness.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced Thursday the agency was canceling the lease.

The Blackfoot Tribes of the U.S. and Canada say the government illegally issued the lease in 1982 on sacred land just outside Glacier National Park.

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11:30 a.m.

Montana leaders are praising the U.S. government's decision to cancel an oil and gas lease on land near Glacier National Park that is sacred to Native American tribes.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester says generations of Blackfeet families and recreationalists have enjoyed the Badger-Two Medicine area and that it's one of those special places where drilling shouldn't occur.

Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock says the decision is a step toward preserving the Blackfeet's cultural identity and sacred land.

The leaseholder, Solenex LLC, is expected to challenge the cancellation in federal court. Solenex has fought to drill for oil and gas on the 6,200-acre site in a dispute that has lasted for decades.

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10:15 a.m.

The Obama administration has canceled a disputed oil and gas lease just outside Glacier National Park that's on land considered sacred to the Blackfoot tribes of the U.S. and Canada.

Thursday's move came after U.S. District Judge Richard Leon criticized the government over its decades-long delay in resolving the matter.

The cancellation is expected to be challenged in federal court by Solenex LLC, a Louisiana company seeking to drill for oil and gas on the 6,200-acre site.

Left unresolved is the fate of 17 remaining leases in northwest Montana's Badger-Two Medicine area, site of the Blackfoot creation story. Blackfoot leaders say the leases were illegally issued in 1982.

Solenex sued the government in 2013 to force a decision after the dispute dragged on for decades.