Fort Worth, TX-based Moncrief Oil Co. has reportedly agreed to retire its oil and gas leases south of Glacier National Park in Montana as part of an out-of-court settlement.
The 10 square-mile area of land at the heart of the settlement has been at the center of a multi-year legal battle involving the Blackfeet Nation, environmental groups, oil and gas lease holders such as Moncrief and the U.S. Department of the Interior’s (DOI) Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
The Wilderness Society, one of the environmental groups involved, confirmed that the Wyss Foundation, a conservation group, had paid an undisclosed amount to Moncrief to reach the settlement.
W.A. "Tex" Moncrief, head of the company, filed a lawsuit in April 2017 in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (DC) against the BLM’s Montana-Dakotas office, and petitioned the Interior secretary to reverse BLM’s cancellation of the leases that Moncrief has now agreed to retire in the Badger-Two Medicine region of the Lewis and Clark National Forest.
In January 2017, BLM canceled the final two oil and gas leases in the Badger-Two Medicine area in northwest Montana on lands the Blackfeet Nation considers sacred. But last year, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon of the DC court reinstated the leases. Leon criticized the government for delaying the implementation of the lease for 29 years only to cancel it.
Before the settlement was reached, attorneys for the environmental groups and Blackfeet Nation had reportedly planned to appeal Leon’s decision.
The Moncrief agreement would leave only one oil and gas exploratory lease in place on the land in question out of about 45 issued since the early 1980s. Louisiana-based Solenex LLC reportedly holds the final lease, which is the subject of a federal court challenge in Solenex LLC v. David Bernhardt et al, No. 18-5345.
Moncrief has oil and gas production assets in Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, Wyoming and the Gulf of Mexico.