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United States ex Rel. McLennan v. Wilbur, 283 U.S. 414 (1931)

United States ex Rel. McLennan v. Wilbur

Nos. 618, 676, 704, 743

Argued April 15, 16, 1931

Decided May 18, 1931

283 U.S. 414


l. The provisions of the Mineral Leasing Act of February 25, 1920, plainly indicate that Congress held in mind the distinction between a positive mandate to the Secretary and permission to take certain action in his discretion; also, the difference between applicants for mere privileges and those persons who, because of expenditures, or otherwise, deserved special consideration. P. 283 U. S. 418.

2. Section 13 of this Act, by which the Secretary is "authorized" to grant prospecting permits looking to the discovery and exploitation of oil deposits belonging to the United States, is susceptible of the construction that it leaves the Secretary a discretion to reject, or refuse to receive, all applications for such permits, by a general order made in pursuance of a policy of the President to conserve such deposits. P. 283 U. S. 419.

Page 283 U. S. 415

So held in view of the words of the section; the belief, widely accepted when the Act was passed, that decline of petroleum production in the United States was imminent; the enormous increase that actually occurred, and the present surplus; the general powers of the Secretary over the public lands, and the right of the President to withdraw them from private appropriation.

3. Mandamus will issue only where the duty to be performed is ministerial and the obligation to act peremptory, and plainly defined. P. 283 U. S. 420.

46 F.2d 217, 224 affirmed.

Certiorari, post, p. 811, to review judgments reversing judgments for mandamus, in suits brought against the Secretary of the Interior and the Commissioner of the General Land Office by applicants for permits to prospect for oil and gas.

Page 283 U. S. 416

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