According to the state, 30 gas companies and 10 oil companies still owe millions to the North Dakota School Fund.

Five companies have paid off that debt since we last reported on this in August.

State Land Commissioner Jodi Smith says the Department of Trust Lands has been sending letters out for over a year now to collect overdue royalty payments, agreed upon when operators leased land from the state.

The North Dakota Petroleum Council argues companies have to both market and transport their product to make it valuable so they deduct those costs from payments to the state.

House Bill 1080 was introduced after a request from the Council to find a solution.
Smith says she has the same goal.

“What we’ve done is worked with the industry to find a comparable penalty and interest,” Smith said.

“This bill will take it down so that the interest payment can’t be more than 9%. Currently, it’s at 18%. And then it will take my penalty authority down from 12 to 6%. We’ve all agreed to these provisions and we’re happy with the way it’s kind of turned out.”

HB 1080 is still going through hearings in the Senate because there’s still a disagreement over the statute of limitations.