Group sues North Dakota over ‘pore space’ law

July 30, 2019 GMT

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A North Dakota landowners group is suing the state over a new law related to compensation for the use of cavities in underground rock formations.

The Northwest Landowners Association said the law that takes effect Thursday amounts to the unconstitutional taking of private property rights.

Republican Gov. Doug Burgum in April signed the legislation that sought to clarify issues surrounding the cavities known as “pore space,” which can be used to inject saltwater from oil and gas production or for enhanced oil recovery, a process that involves pumping carbon dioxide into old oilfields to extract more crude.


Under the new law, some landowners cannot be compensated for their pore space when it is used for saltwater disposal or enhanced oil recovery, unless they have an existing contract. Landowners adjacent to a disposal well also cannot make a claim that saltwater has migrated into their pore space.

The group’s lawsuit, filed Monday, seeks to overturn the law.

Troy Coons, chairman of the association, told the Bismarck Tribune that compensation for use of pore space could have been settled through private contracts, or lawmakers could have commissioned a study on the issue or split it up among several bills to consider separately.

“The sad part of this for me is that I don’t believe any of this was necessary,” Troy Coons said. “This was an egregious and bald-faced taking that did not have to happen in this fashion.”

A spokeswoman for North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said his office is reviewing the complaint.

A spokesman for Burgum said the governor does not comment on pending litigation. But Burgum has said the bill clarifies legal issues related to underground injection, which should boost the state’s energy industry. At the time, Burgum said the bill “protects landowners and preserves their compensation opportunities.”


Information from: Bismarck Tribune,