Serving The Bakken And Beyond

EOG Joins Royalty Owners In Contesting Lake Mineral Ownership

EOG Resources joined other oil companies and royalty owners in challenging the inclusion of Lake Sakakawea as part of the state of North Dakota’s mineral ownership.

In a supporting brief to the ND Supreme Court, EOG disputed the decision of Dist. Judge Paul Jacobson that the lake is “not distinguishable” from the Missouri River.

If that decision is supported by the state supreme court, it “would have disastrous consequences for thousands of property owners in North Dakota”, attorney Lawrence Bender argued on behalf of EOG.

The oil company is supporting William S. Wilkinson and more than 80 mineral owners contesting Jacobson’s earlier decision in May 2016.

Jacobson dismissed the claims sought by the royalty owners and granted summary judgement in favor of the ND Dept. of Trust Lands.

In addition to EOG, Brigham Oil & Gas LLP, Statoil Oil & Gas LP, XTO Energy Inc., Petrogulf Corp., and the ND Petroleum Council are also contesting the decision regarding the Ordinary High Water Mark (OHWM) used by the state to determine mineral ownership under the water.

The judge said North Dakota’s state land ownership was not limited to the 30,000 acres of sovereign land within the riverbed of the Missouri River as it existed prior to the creation of Lake Sakakawea and Garrison Dam.

He was, in effect, supporting the argument of the state’s attorneys who asserted: “Lake Sakakawea is simply an expansion of the Missouri River; it is not a separate and discrete water body.”

Historically, the ND Dept. of Trust Lands has only solicited bonuses on oil and gas leases up to the original OHWM created by the Missouri River.

“The state has never claimed such expansive rights in the oil, gas, and minerals under the lake,” Bender said in his brief. “For more than thirty years, the state’s policy was to claim only the historical riverbed east of the Highway 85 bridge, and the current riverbed west of the Highway 85 bridge.” The lake spreads over 340,000 acres.

Bender also challenged Jacobson’s contention that the state engineer is the final decision maker in determining OHWM ownership. The state engineer has never been given the power to determine ownership of oil and gas leases in the past, he said.