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Solenex v. Haaland finds DOI has no authority to cancel a valid lease once it has been issued


Since before 1993, the late Sidney Longwell fought to get free from the bureaucrats at the Department of the Interior (DOI). Mountain States Legal Foundation and all of its supporters have been in Sidney’s corner since he launched his litigation back in 2013. After decades of red tape review and over ten years of court battles, Sidney WON in his case—Solenex v. Haaland!

On September 9, 2022, Judge Richard Leon of the US District Court for the District of Columbia ripped the government’s argument to shreds, and once again penned a summary judgment order requiring DOI to reinstate Sidney’s lease and permit to drill, which the government unfairly suspended and then capriciously cancelled.

Sidney Longwell first purchased his federal oil and gas lease in 1982. But the Clinton Administration, crazed by environmentalism and after ten years of delays of reviews, suspended his lease indefinitely in 1993, placing it in regulatory limbo. Since then, he had gone through the inane and monstrous bureaucratic review process. Finally, in 2013 and with help from Mountain States Legal Foundation, he took the DOI to court, where the agency was forced to decide about Sidney’s lease. When pressed in 2016 for a decision, the DOI—like a temperamental child—outright canceled the lease. Sidney sued them again.

Judge Richard Leon, who has twice ruled against the DOI in Sidney’s case

Judge Leon ruled then with a swift condemnation of the federal government when he said the cancellation of the lease after three decades of delay was “arbitrary and capricious.” He ordered Sidney’s lease and right to drill reinstated.

Unfortunately, an appellate court remanded the case back to the district level, declaring a delay was not sufficient grounds to declare a decision to cancel arbitrary and capricious. So, back at the district court, MSLF mounted a full-court press to undo the government’s decision to cancel Sidney’s lease on the merits that such a decision is fundamentally illegal.

However, on September 9, 2022 Judge Leon yet again penned the order to reinstate Sidney’s lease and permit!

The decision finds that the Secretary of the Interior does not have the authority to cancel a valid lease once it has been issued. All the way back in 1982, Sidney crossed his “t’s” and dotted his “i’s,” and his lease is as solid as the earth he wanted to drill.

As Judge Leon wrote, “It is time to put an end to this interminable, and insufferable, bureaucratic chess match.” We couldn’t agree more.

We await the DOI’s reinstatement of Sidney’s lease—but in all likelihood, the agency will appeal. Having passed away in 2020, Sidney’s daughter Kelly has continued her father’s fight, now in its fifth presidential administration. After decades of wasting the taxpayers’ money to finance their crusade against the Longwell Family, you’d think they’d give it a rest.

You can be sure that MSLF won’t rest until Sidney Longwell gets the justice he deserved.


Read more about this case and its background by clicking here

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