A mineral rights dispute in the Bakken Shale is delaying oil and gas development around Lake Sakakawea.
Continental Resources is asking the courts to clarify mineral ownership for land under Lake Sakakawea. Attorneys for Continental assert in a recent lawsuit that the state and the federal governments both claim ownership to the mineral rights for 93 of the company’s wells. The company is asking the court to allow them to shift the royalty payments for 4,265.791 acres of land to a court-designated depository until the dispute is resolved.
“By reason of these conflicting claims, Continental is in great doubt as to which defendant is entitled to be paid royalties in the disputed lands. Continental doesn’t assert title in the disputed lands, and brings this suit merely to avoid duplicate liability for royalties for the mineral production attributed to the disputed area.” -Continental Complaint
In April, North Dakota legislators approved SB 2134, which affirms that the state does not own minerals under Lake Sakakawea. This put a process in motion to return an estimated $187 million in bonus, rent and royalty payments to private citizens.
The Land Board has gone on record to deny that SB 2134 obligates the agency to rescind its claim to ownership of the mineral estates associated with Disputed Lands. The agency states it is owed $3.786 million in royalties in the disputed areas through June 2017, while the U.S. government claims it is owed $2.818 million in royalties from the same area.