Gov. Doug Burgum issued the following statement today after the North Dakota Supreme Court upheld Senate Bill 2134, which he signed into law in 2017. The legislation, introduced by then-state Sen. Kelly Armstrong, provides an appropriate process for the state Board of University and School Lands (Land Board) to refund money to owners of oil and gas mineral rights under Lake Sakakawea (outside of MHA Nation) where the state had incorrectly assumed ownership. Burgum was named as a defendant in the lawsuit along with the North Dakota Industrial Commission, the Land Board and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem.
“Today’s Supreme Court opinion resolves a longstanding dispute over mineral ownership under Lake Sakakawea and provides certainty for the state, mineral owners and the oil and gas industry,” Burgum said. “The state collected revenue from oil and gas leases where it later recognized it held no rights to the minerals. The remedy provided under Senate Bill 2134, affirmed by the Supreme Court, allows the state to right this wrong by returning funds to thousands of mineral owners that it never should have collected in the first place, and to do so without violating the anti-gift clause in the North Dakota Constitution. We’re grateful for the efforts of the Legislature to carefully draft this remedy, treat thousands of North Dakota mineral acre owners fairly and bring this matter to resolution.”