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Supreme Court of the United States
February 25, 1963, Argued ; May 27, 1963, Decided
[****3] [*473] [***492] [**1374] MR. JUSTICE HARLAN delivered the opinion of the Court.
The question presented in this case is whether the Secretary of the Interior has authority to cancel in an administrative proceeding a lease of public lands issued under the provisions of the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920, 30 U. S. C. §§ 181 et seq., in circumstances where such lease was granted in violation of the Act and regulations promulgated thereunder. Because of a seeming conflict in principle between the decision of the Court of Appeals in this case, 112 U. S. App. D. C. 344, 303 F.2d 204, and that of the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in Pan American Petroleum Corp. v. Pierson, 284 F.2d 649, and also because of the importance of the question to the proper administration of the Mineral Leasing Act, we brought the case here. 371 U.S. 886. For reasons stated hereafter we affirm the judgment below.
] Section 17 of the Mineral Leasing Act, 30 U. S. C. § 226, authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to grant to the first qualified applicant, without competitive bidding, oil and gas leases of lands in the public domain [****4] not within a known geologic structure. [***493] These are called "noncompetitive" leases. 1 A departmental regulation provides that "no offer" for a noncompetitive lease "may be made [*474] for less than 640 acres except . . . where the land is surrounded by lands not available for leasing under the act." 43 CFR § 192.42 (d). "Not available" has always been administratively construed to mean lands not available for leasing to anyone. Hence lands covered only by an outstanding application for a lease are considered available, Natalie Z. Shell, 62 I. D. 417 (1955), and therefore subject to the 640-acre requirement.
On September 11, 1956, petitioner 2 applied to the Santa Fe Land Office in [**1375] New Mexico (whose authority also embraces Oklahoma) for an 80-acre noncompetitive lease of land in Oklahoma. There was already on file an application by one Connell for a noncompetitive lease [****5] of an adjoining 40-acre tract, but no lease had issued to Connell at the time of petitioner's application. Immediately following petitioner's application two other persons, Cuccia and Conley, filed for a lease of the entire 120 acres. On December 1, 1956, the 40-acre lease issued to Connell, the validity of which is not questioned here. In November 1957 an 80-acre lease issued to petitioner. Following notification that their 120-acre application had been rejected, Cuccia and Conley pursued a departmental appeal, 43 CFR §§ 221.1-221.2. This ultimately resulted in a cancellation of petitioner's lease on the ground that having failed to include in his application the adjoining 40-acre tract (no lease to Connell having then been issued), his 80-acre application was invalid, thus leaving the Cuccia and Conley application in respect of that tract prior in right. Accordingly a lease to them was directed. 3
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373 U.S. 472 *; 83 S. Ct. 1373 **; 10 L. Ed. 2d 491 ***; 1963 U.S. LEXIS 2430 ****; 18 Oil & Gas Rep. 431
BOESCHE, ADMINISTRATOR, v. UDALL, SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR
Prior History: [****1] CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT.
Disposition: 112 U. S. App. D. C. 344, 303 F.2d 204, affirmed.
lease, cancellation, mineral leasing, regulations, provisions, lessee, oil, public land, noncompetitive, judicial proceedings, fail to comply, departmental, forfeiture, Appeals, tract
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