Lakewood, CO. – September 25, 2018 – One man’s thirty five-year battle with the federal government culminated on September 24th, when a federal judge ruled that the Department of the Interior had wrongly cancelled his oil and gas lease.
Sidney Longwell, of Baton Rouge, first purchased an oil and gas lease in the Lewis and Clark National Forest in 1982. Despite passing environmental and historical review, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) suspended the lease in 1993, and continued to suspend the lease every year for nearly two decades—for a list of ever-changing reasons. In his ruling, Judge Leon criticizes the BLM for its “unreasonable agency delay,” which he characterized as “Kafkaesque.”
In 2015, Mr. Longwell won his initial court battle over those unreasonable delays. However, in 2016, the federal government, when pressed by the judge to make a decision regarding whether Mr. Longwell could drill on his lease, cancelled Mr. Longwell’s lease altogether.
Judge Richard J. Leon of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia blasted the government’s decision to cancel the lease after three decades of arbitrary and capricious delays: “Federal defendants appear to argue that no time-period, however long, would prove too attenuated to reconsider the issuance of a lease under newly discovered legal theories… Horsefeathers!”
Judge Leon ordered that Mr. Longwell’s lease and his right to drill be reinstated.
The government has 60 days to appeal Judge Leon’s ruling. Therefore Mr. Longwell’s battle may not be over yet. So far, the Trump administration has continued to support the decision of Obama’s Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, to cancel the lease.
“The assertion by the federal government in this case is unprecedented,” says William Perry Pendley, president of Mountain States Legal Foundation, which represents Mr. Longwell. “The judge got it exactly right and we are thrilled for Mr. Longwell. The government has to respect the contracts it signs.”
Mountain States Legal Foundation, created in 1977, is a nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation dedicated to individual liberty, the right to own and use property, limited and ethical government, and the free enterprise system. Its offices are in suburban Denver, Colorado.