ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

North Dakota Supreme Court sides with Oil Patch landowners in dispute over 'pore space' law

A group of Oil Patch landowners argued a 2019 law illegally stripped away their property rights by allowing oil companies to avoid paying them for the use of underground rock cavities on their property.

oil-pump-jack-1407715960720.jpg
An oil pump jack operates in western North Dakota.
File photo
We are part of The Trust Project.

BISMARCK — The North Dakota Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a group of landowners in a complex dispute over the oil and gas industry's use of underground rock cavities.

The unanimous ruling released Thursday, Aug. 4, upheld critical parts of a lower court's decision to strike down a state law that prevented some landowners from receiving compensation for the use of underground cavities on their property.

The Republican-held state Legislature and Gov. Doug Burgum approved the industry-backed legislation in 2019, setting the stage for a lawsuit brought by the Northwest Landowners Association.

The cavities, known as “pore space,” can be used by oil producers for the disposal of salt water or for the injection of carbon dioxide to boost production from declining oil wells.

The landowners argued the 2019 law illegally stripped away their property rights. The state contended the law fell within the state's authority to coerce property for the public good. Continental Resources, a major oil producer, intervened in the case and joined the state's side.

ADVERTISEMENT

A district court judge struck down the whole law in a 2021 ruling, but the Supreme Court's decision Thursday restored some pieces of the law that Northwest Landowners' attorney Derrick Braaten said weren't of much consequence to his clients.

The Supreme Court concurred with the lower court that the disputed section of the law allowing oil producers to use pore spaces without paying landowners violated clauses in the U.S. and state constitutions that prohibit the public "taking" of private land without offering fair compensation.

Braaten said the landowners felt "vindicated and elated" after the high court's ruling.

A joint statement from the state Industrial Commission, which was a defendant in the case, said, "Although the Supreme Court ruling struck down portions of Senate Bill 2344, the remaining portions of the bill that the court upheld are a victory for both landowners and industry."

The Industrial Commission consists of Gov. Doug Burgum, Attorney General Drew Wrigley and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring.

An attorney for Continental Resources did not immediately respond for comment on the ruling.

Jeremy Turley is a Bismarck-based reporter for Forum News Service, which provides news coverage to publications owned by Forum Communications Company.
What to read next
Between 2007 and 2021, official refugee resettlement numbers in North Dakota went from a high of 563 in 2014 to a low of 19 in 2021, according to data provided by the North Dakota Department of Human Services following an information request.
Tammy Longie, along with her husband Erich Longie Jr., were both sentenced to life in prison following the murder of a 5-year-old, abuse of other children
Mund, a former Miss America titleholder and recent Harvard Law School graduate, spoke to Forum News Service about her views on today's most pressing political issues as she hopes to make the ballot as an independent for U.S. House of Representatives
N.D. Adjutant General announced on Monday the appointment of the new State Command Sergeant Major for the North Dakota National Guard. Eric Binstock enlisted in the North Dakota Army National Guard in 1991, before graduating from Regent High School, Regent, ND in 1992.