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Shell Oil Co. v. Andrus

ELR Citation: 9 ELR 20530
Nos. No. 77-1346, 591 F.2d 597/(10th Cir., 01/25/1979)

In 1964, the Secretary of the Interior asserted that certain oil shale placer mining claims held by appellees were invalid because they did not contain valuable minerals when the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920, 30 U.S.C. §181, ELR STAT. & REG. 41410, was enacted, nor do valuable minerals now exist on the claims. An administrative law judge found the claims valid but was reversed by the Interior Board of Land Appeals. The United States District Court for the District of Colorado held the claims to be valid, however, and the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirms the validity of the claims.

The court traces the treatment by the Interior Department of oil shale mining claims from 1916 to 1960 and finds that oil shale was considered a valuable mineral and that 2,326 claims for oil shale mining were patented. In 1961, the Interior Department changed its policy by contesting these particular claims, which were located prior to 1920, and then tried to apply the new policy retroactively. The court notes that this policy change can not bring about the consequences urged by the Interior Department because the policy of treating oil shale as a valuable mineral was adopted and approved by Congress in two separate investigations. Thus, the Interior Department does not have the authority to effect such a change. Because oil shale was considered a valuable mineral from 1916 to 1960, the mining claims are valid.

The full text of this opinion is available from ELR (20 pp. $2.50, ELR Order No. C-1171).

Counsel for Appellant
Robert L. Klarquist
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-2731

Counsel for Appellees
Fowler Hamilton
Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton
One State Street Plaza, New York NY 10004
(212) 344-0600

Claron Spencer
Senior & Senior
1100 Beneficial Life Tower, 36 S. State St., Salt Lake City UT 84111
(801) 532-1900

Counsel for Amicus Curiae State of Utah
Robert B. Hansen, Attorney General
State Capitol, Salt Lake City UT 84114
(801) 533-5261