McGOWAN, Circuit Judge:
The District Court granted appellee's motion for summary judgment in this action, which we think must be taken to be a suit to review, on the basis of the administrative record, a decision by the Secretary of the Interior to reject certain lease offers as not in compliance with the applicable regulations. The Secretary's reading of these regulations was, in our view, a warrantable one; and there is no claim that the regulations, as so read, are beyond the Secretary's powers. We, therefore, have only to consider appellants' claim that the departmental proceedings were inadequate in terms of procedural due process. We do not find them so.
The Federal Register, on July 29, 1958, gave notice that some 4 million acres of land in Alaska, in blocks of approximately 2,500 acres each, were being made available for non-competitive oil and gas leasing under the Mineral Leasing Act. 23 Fed.Reg. 5700-01. It was stated that the leasing would be subject to the terms recited in the notice, and also to the existing regulations then set out in 43 C.F.R., Part 192. The former included a provision that "Each offeror may file only one offer for each separate leasing block." The latter contained a requirement, appearing in the margin,
The drawing took place on October 1, 1958. Appellants were in luck to the extent of one first prize, and three second places.
The merits of the Secretary's action do not, in our view, call for much comment. Like him, we think that there was a patent failure to comply with the requirements relating to the disclosure of an agency interest and relationship; and that this failure rendered appellants' lease offers ineffective from the first. Had the facts been known at the time, the offers could — and presumably would — have been rejected at the moment of submission for filing. That their defects — which were not apparent on their face
Appellants contend that there is some evidence of a departmental practice in the past to apply the agency regulation only in those cases where the lease offer purports on its face to be signed by an agent and where the agent is shown to have made the selection of the lands. In this latter respect, it is claimed that there has been no opportunity to show that appellants did in fact select their own lands. But the regulation does not, in our reading of it, say or fairly imply that these conditions attach; and, whatever may have been their recognition within the Department on other occasions, we do not think that the Secretary was disabled from applying the regulation in this instance in what clearly appears to have been not only its letter but its spirit. Our duty to defer to the Secretary's interpretation of his own regulations, so long as that interpretation is not plainly beyond the bounds of reason or authority, is well-defined.
In turning to the procedural issue, we remark that the question before us is not whether there were disputed and material questions of fact to be tried in the District Court, thereby rendering summary judgment inappropriate. It is the administrative record, upon the basis of which the Secretary acted, which is to be looked to in this proceeding as the measure of the propriety of his action. And we are now addressing ourselves to the argument that the course of the administrative proceedings was such as to deprive appellants of a fair opportunity to be heard.
The argument seems to us to lack the substance which would impel us to reverse the District Court. When the Director of the Bureau of Land Management decided to investigate the matter, he sent a representative to interview the various persons involved. Those interviews were recorded and transcripts are included in the record. When an appeal was taken to the Secretary, additional evidence was submitted by appellants in support of it, which evidence itself included two separate signed copies of the form of agreement prepared by Transwestern for use in this venture. We have examined this record in detail, and we believe that it inescapably reveals the essential nature of this project to be such as to justify the Secretary's disposition. It is true that counsel has now tried to develop some issues of fact, such as whether some of the agreements were finally executed, whether all blanks in the lease applications were filled in before or after leaving the appellants, and what the understanding of certain of the appellants was as to the effect of the agreements. But these strike us as largely lacking in materiality insofar as the propriety of the disqualification is concerned. In our view, appellants failed to convince the Secretary, not because they were denied a reasonable opportunity to do so but because the primary facts, brought out by themselves as well as by the Government and which are not essentially in dispute, were too stubborn.
The judgment of the District Court is
FAHY, Circuit Judge, did not participate in the decision of this case.