Attorney Turns To Industrial Commission In Flaring Dispute

BISMARCK – An attorney involved in the recently dismissed class-action flaring lawsuits is now asking the North Dakota Industrial Commission to determine if mineral owners are owed royalty payments.

Attorney Derrick Braaten delivered the requests Friday to the North Dakota Industrial Commission after a federal judge ruled that the mineral owners failed to exhaust their administrative remedies through the Industrial Commission.

Mineral owners filed lawsuits against 14 oil and gas companies that operate in western North Dakota, claiming they were owed millions of dollars in royalties for natural gas they allege was illegally flared from oil wells. All but one case were moved to federal court.

U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Hovland ruled last week that the court lacks jurisdiction because the administrative remedies were not exhausted.

Braaten, who represents the mineral owners, said last week that Hovland’s dismissal was not on the merits of the cases.

Hovland’s ruling noted that the Industrial Commission has broad authority to regulate oil and gas activities in the state, including determining whether gas is being flared in violation of state law and ordering the payment of royalties and taxes on improperly flared gas.

In Braaten’s letters submitted to the Industrial Commission, he asks for the commissioners to use their discretion to take up the matter and determine whether the 13 companies flared gas in violation of North Dakota law.

The Industrial Commission, which consists of Gov. Jack Dalrymple, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, meets Tuesday.