BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) – A group of landowners in North Dakota got a big win against the oil and gas industry last week.
Landowners should be compensated for the use of porous cavities under their land, according to the North Dakota Supreme Court.
“It’s a big win and as the court system said, one of the most egregious forms of taking is a physical invasion, and that’s what they were kind of doing here was allowing people to physically invade your property and store something there,” said Troy Coons, chairman of the Northwest Landowners Association.
In 2019, the State Legislature passed a law that said landowners didn’t need to be compensated for the use of their pore space, which the petroleum industry uses to inject saltwater for enhanced oil recovery or permanent storage.
“For an individual landowner with a disposal well, you could be talking several hundred thousand dollars per year to millions of dollars annually,” said Derrick Braaten, owner of Braaten Law Firm and counsel for the Northwest Landowners Association.
Pore space issues can be complex, and the primary sponsor of the 2019 bill says the purpose of the legislation was to clear things up for all parties involved.
“We were the first state to try and tackle pore space ownership and responsibilities in the Century Code. The original purpose of the legislation was to provide some clarity in the law for surface owners of pore space as well as for industry who is producing oil and gas,” said Sen. Jessica Bell, representing Beulah.
As for how the Legislature will work to clarify pore space issues moving forward, it’s unclear.
Wednesday, the Northwest Landowners Association is seeking more than a $250,000 in lawyers’ fees from the years-long legal battle.
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