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Sorenson v. Burlington Resources Oil & Gas Co., L.P.

ELR Citation: 44 ELR 20115
Nos. 4:13-cv-132, (D.N.D., 05/14/2014) (Hovland, J.)

A district court dismissed several mineral rights owners' lawsuits against a number of energy companies that operate oil and gas wells in North Dakota's Bakken Shale region. The owners alleged that the companies have illegally flared gas from the wells and that they are therefore due royalties on the illegally flared gas. The owners, however, failed to file a petition with the North Dakota Industrial Commission before filing suit. As such, they failed to exhaust their administrative remedies, and the court lacks jurisdiction. Despite the owners' arguments to the contrary, this is not a case of simple statutory construction, exhaustion would not be futile, and the applicable statute expressly requires them to first bring their claims before the Industrial Commission. Nor does the applicable statute give the owners an express or implied private right of action. Likewise, their claims under the North Dakota Environmental Law Enforcement Act also require exhaustion. Last, the owners' claims for waste and conversion are preempted and precluded by statute.