statute and its legislative history, there is nothing to indicate that Congress desired or compelled the acceptance of either interpretation. Rather, the question was one of construction of the language of section 2091.1(e).
The judicial deference to which an agency's interpretation of its own regulation is afforded is great, such that if several reasonable interpretations are available, the agency's construction need only be one of those, and not necessarily the most reasonable of the alternative interpretations.
See, e.g., Expedient Services, Inc. v. Weaver, 614 F.2d 56, 57 n.1 (5th Cir. 1980); Belco Petroleum v. FERC, 191 U.S.App.D.C. 157, 163 n.5, 589 F.2d 680, 686 n.5 (1978). In considering the language and purpose of the 1976 amendment and the regulation, the Court can only conclude that the Secretary could reasonably have given the regulations either of the interpretations espoused by the parties here. That choice resided with the department, and ultimately with Secretary Andrus as head of the agency. As such, his decision to invalidate the leases was proper as based on a reasonable interpretation of his own regulations which, in turn, required that the applications to lease be rejected.
Anticipating such a determination, plaintiff puts forth two other theories under which it contends that the Secretary's action in canceling the leases should be declared invalid. First, Texas Oil & Gas argues that the Secretary should be estopped from invalidating its leases because plaintiff could have "top-filed" the lease applications after the August 1978 effective date of the amended section 3101.2-1, thereby depriving the Secretary of his legal justification for rescinding the leases, but did not do so in reliance on the oral representations of certain BLM officials about the validity of the applications as filed.
It is established that the doctrine of estoppel is to be applied to the government only in the most extraordinary circumstances and with the greatest care and circumspection. See, e.g., L'Enfant Plaza Properties, Inc. v. District of Columbia Redevelopment Land Agency, 184 U.S.App.D.C. 30, 39, 564 F.2d 515, 524 (1977); Hoeber v. District of Columbia Redevelopment Land Agency, 483 F. Supp. 1356, 1366 (D.D.C.1980). This is especially so in instances relating to the public lands. United States v. Eaton Shale Co., 433 F. Supp. 1256, 1272 (D.Colo.1977). The party asserting an estoppel must not only establish that equitable principle's traditional elements false representation, a purpose to invite action by the party to whom the representation was made, ignorance of the true facts by that party, and reasonable reliance but must also make a showing of an injustice to him and a lack of undue damage to the public interest. Hoeber v. District of Columbia Redevelopment Land Agency, supra, 483 F. Supp. at 1365-66.
In applying this analytic framework to the circumstances of this litigation, it is apparent that the doctrine of estoppel is not appropriately invoked. Plaintiff's reliance upon alleged telephone conversations with BLM officials can hardly be called reasonable in light of the Interior Department's comments accompanying its proposal to amend section 3101.2-1, 42 Fed.Reg. 46558 (1977), which placed plaintiff on notice of the possibility of a departmental interpretation of section 3101.2-1 in line with that ultimately made by the Secretary in November 1979. Cf. Udall v. Oelschlaeger, 129 U.S. App. D.C. 13, 389 F.2d 974, 977 (D.C.Cir.), cert. denied, 392 U.S. 909, 88 S. Ct. 2056, 20 L. Ed. 2d 1367 (1968). Moreover, while there is undoubtedly some injustice rendered plaintiff by the cancellation of its leases, it cannot be said that the decision of the Secretary is contrary or detrimental to the public interest in the equitable leasing of the public lands. Estoppel simply will not lie in this instance.
Finally, relying on the seminal case of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in Pillsbury Co. v. FTC, 354 F.2d 952 (5th Cir. 1966), and authority from this circuit, American Public Gas Association v. FPC, 186 U.S.App.D.C. 23, 567 F.2d 1016 (1977), cert. denied, 435 U.S. 907, 98 S. Ct. 1456, 55 L. Ed. 2d 499 (1978); D.C. Federation of Civic Associations v. Volpe, 148 U.S.App.D.C. 207, 459 F.2d 1231 (1971), cert. denied, 405 U.S. 1030, 92 S. Ct. 1290, 31 L. Ed. 2d 489 (1972), plaintiff asserts that the Secretary's action should be reversed because it was improperly motivated by pressure from members of Congress. Although the content of the letters submitted to the Secretary by various Congressmen and Senators and the implication arising from the timing and subject matter of the subcommittee hearing in September 1979 can be termed "regrettable and quite inconsistent with that due regard for the independence of the (Secretary) which Congress and the courts must maintain," American Public Gas Association v. FPC, supra, 186 U.S.App.D.C. at 77, 567 F.2d at 1070, nonetheless this evidence, when taken as a whole, is insufficient to establish that the Secretary's decision was improper as rendered for political rather than policy reasons. See, Sun Oil Co. v. United States, 215 Ct. Cl. 716, 572 F.2d 786, 812-13 (Ct.Cl.1978); American Public Gas Association v. FPC, supra, 186 U.S.App.D.C. at 77, 567 F.2d at 1070. Accordingly, the Secretary's order cancelling plaintiff's leases must stand and plaintiff's requests for declaratory and injunctive relief are denied.
Having concluded that the Secretary's cancellation of plaintiff's leases must stand, the question of the validity of defendant's action in denying plaintiff a drilling permit for the Ft. Chaffee lands need not be reached.