Braaten Law Firm has filed suit on behalf of Northwest Landowners Association against the State of North Dakota for the unprecedented taking of private property rights as a result of passage of Senate Bill 2344. Standing alongside the landowners of North Dakota, the firm will commit any and all resources to protect the private property rights of North Dakotans and stand up to this unconstitutional, bald-faced taking. A copy of the complaint in the lawsuit can be found here. The text of a press release issued by Northwest Landowners Association is below, and a copy of the actual release can be found here.
For immediate release
July 29, 2019
Northwest Landowners Association
Northwest Landowners Association Files Lawsuit against State of North Dakota over Unconstitutional Taking of Private Property
Bismarck, ND — Northwest Landowners Association will host a press conference at the Radisson Hotel on Monday, July 29, at 2:00p.m. to discuss the lawsuit it filed today against the State of North Dakota. Northwest Landowners Association filed a Complaint in state district court asking the court to declare Senate Bill 2344 unconstitutional, void, and of no effect. Specifically, the Association has alleged the following:
• “Prior to Senate Bill 2344, North Dakota’s landowners had the exclusive right to possess and use the pore spare within their lands, as recognized by case law and prior statutes.”
• “Senate Bill 2344 strips landowners of their right to possess and use the pore space within their lands and allows the State of North Dakota to directly redistribute that right to others without the consent of or compensation to the landowners.”
• “In enacting Senate Bill 2344, the State of North Dakota attempts to give mineral developers free use of the landowner’s pore space and remove any rights or remedies the surface owner has to object or demand compensation.”
• “Taking property from a private landowner in this manner, particularly without paying compensation, and then giving it to another private entity to use, is unconstitutional on several grounds.“
• “Senate Bill 2344 is unconstitutional under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, and under the Constitution of North Dakota, Article I, §§ 9 (open courts), 12 (due process), 16 (unconstitutional taking), and 21 & 22 (equal protection); and Article 10, § 18 (gift clause).”
• “The law is void as violative of both the United States Constitution and the Constitution of North Dakota.”
As stated in the complaint, Association President Troy Coons previously addressed the ND Legislative Assembly on behalf of the Association’s landowner members, and explained:
“We as landowners are not opposed to the storage of gas or to CO2 injection. Almost all of the saltwater disposals in this state are operated through voluntary contracts with landowners. As an organization we have always tried to work with industry and regulators to address our concerns. Unfortunately, we were not at the table when this bill was drafted, and we are opposed to this unprecedented taking of private property rights. We remain committed to working cooperatively with industry, and our invitation to sit down and address the concerns raised by this bill is an open offer. But this bill remains offensive to what we stand for….”
Northwest Landowners Association has never been engaged in litigation, but as board member Patty Jensen said with respect to taking on the responsibility of challenging the constitutionality of Senate Bill 2344, “It’s just the right thing to do.”
The Association was very active during the legislative session opposing Senate Bill 2344, as well as supporting numerous other bills related to landowner protections. Northwest Landowners Association is leading the charge, but it is well known that landowners throughout the state are extremely upset over the unconstitutional taking embodied by Senate Bill 2344.
As is illustrated by the stories of several landowners described in the complaint, this legislation has an immediate, serious, negative impact on many landowners in the state. Landowners with concerns are encouraged to call Braaten Law Firm. Although our services are in high demand and our caseload is such that it is difficult for us to take on new work right now, we are happy to answer questions for landowners and we are accepting new clients on a rolling basis as well as when circumstances demand.
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