NORTH DAKOTA (KXNET) — The North Dakota Supreme Court has struck down key parts of Senate Bill 2344 that authorized oil and gas operators to utilize pore space without landowner compensation or consent.
North Dakota law has long established that surface owners have direct ownership in pore space.
But in 2019, the state legislature passed a law that said landowners will no longer be compensated for the use of their pore space.
Once that law was passed, members of the Northwest Landowner’s Association fought the ruling in the state’s high courts.
“We have North Dakota trust lands in this state, and that’s owned by the citizens of the state of North Dakota. And about half, give or take a little difference, of the school funding comes from that land. So, this
is a multimillion, billion dollar deal that would affect every citizen in the state of North Dakota,” said Troy Coons, the chairman of Northwest Landowners Association.
Pore spaces are cavities in rock or soil that are used when gas industries inject saltwater underground for storage or for enhanced oil recovery.
A state district judge ruled the law unconstitutional because it gives the landowners value from pore space to the oil and gas industry for free.
While the decision does not stop the use of pore space by oil and gas operators, the decision emphasizes the need for landowner consideration and compensation for the use of their land.
“It’s very, very reaffirming that the check and balances in our system can work. Because it was very disheartening to find all of those rights being taken away from you that know generations of your family have worked for this,” said Coons.
Members of the Northwest Landowner’s Association fought for the revision of the pore space law all the way from the district court to the state supreme court.
On August 4, the high court’s unanimous opinion said, quote “Government-authorized physical invasions of property constitute the ‘clearest sort of taking.’”
Coons said, “This will affect farmers, ranchers, property owners, and every citizen in the state.”
Members of the landowner’s association deem this a big win’ for all parties involved.
Coons says, the group will continue to be involved in state legislation and fight for the citizens of North Dakota.
North Dakota’s Industrial Commission, headed by Governor Burgum, said in a statement Thursday that it is “committed to ensuring that underground saltwater injection wells are managed for the benefit of landowners as well as the oil and gas industry.”