the Supreme Court's supplemental decision.
Texaco filed for approval with the Department pursuant to 30 CFR § 250.91(a). Plaintiff's application was successively denied through several administrative steps. Each of the decisions grounded its denial in a construction of the lease validation which set the seaward boundary at three leagues from the Chapman shoreline, rather than three leagues from the coast line as defined in United States v. Louisiana.
This Court has jurisdiction over the dispute pursuant to § 10 of the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 701 et seq., which provides for judicial review of administrative actions.
The scope of the Court's review of the Secretary's decision is limited to determining whether the decision of the Secretary of the Interior construing the Department's 1958 order validating the Louisiana No. 340 Lease of Texaco, has a reasonable basis. See, Udall v. Tallman, 380 U.S. 1, 16, 85 S. Ct. 792, 13 L. Ed. 2d 616 (1965); Duesing v. Udall, 121 U.S.App.D.C. 370, 350 F.2d 748, 752 (1965), cert. denied, 383 U.S. 912, 86 S. Ct. 888, 15 L. Ed. 2d 667 (1965).
The defendant in this action has placed great emphasis on the decision of the Solicitor, 65 I.D. 75 (1958) which preceded the March 12, 1958 decision of the Director of the Bureau of Land Management. The Department contends that the two decisions must be read together and when so considered in pari materia create the rationality underlying the Secretary's construction of the validation agreement.
The Court must therefore weigh the various documents and determine whether together they afford a rational basis for the Secretary's decision.
The weight attributable to the Solicitor's opinion is substantially affected by two factors: (1) The chronological relationship of this document to subsequent statements by the same administrator; (2) the relative equivocity of each document insofar as it reflects or fails to reflect a position on the question. Both factors in this case lessen the weight which can reasonably be ascribed to the Solicitor's opinion.
The Solicitor's opinion was issued February 12, 1958. It was implemented by the Validation Lease OCS 0310 by the Bureau of Land Management one month later. The Validation Lease clearly defined "coast line" in terms of the evolving definition as employed in the SLA.
The Solicitor concurred in and signed the subsequent Validation Lease. This concurrence should be persuasive in any analysis of the Solicitor's view of the matter. The Validation Lease specifically alluded to the Solicitor's opinion; offered an explanation of his decision; was unequivocal; and he signed it. This document given its natural weight and significance would seem to be conclusive in this matter. But the Court must also consider the Solicitor's document for it is on that decision which the Secretary relies for the rational basis for his decision.
The Solicitor's opinion of February 12, 1958, offers little support to the Secretary's interpretation. The Solicitor was obviously and expressly aware of the government's contention that the Chapman Line should be the northern coast line boundary in the Validation Leases:
Alternative locations for this line vary from the so-called Chapman line, which in the area covered by the Marsh Island Prospects, approximates their northern boundary, to the line set by the Louisiana Legislature * * * which adopts a line 10-15 miles farther seaward as the coastline of the State and places the State boundary 3 marine leagues south of that line. 65 I.D. at 80.
Nowhere, however, in his lengthy decision does he expressly designate the Chapman Line as the determinative factor in the lease boundary. Two statements of the Solicitor give some indication of what he was trying to achieve with his opinion.
Reading the two acts of Congress in context, and as an earnest attempt on the part of Congress to effect an equitable and harmonious disposition of leasing problems arising from the Tideland decisions of the Supreme Court by executing its constitutional powers in such a way as to avoid injustices to States or persons acting pursuant to their permission * * * it seems clear that the objectives can best be obtained by holding that any validation in this instance shall be strictly limited to those lands covered by the leases lying beyond the three mile limit but extending in no instance beyond 3 marine leagues from the line of ordinary low water as stipulated by law.