Judge strikes down 'pore space' law challenged by landowners

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A judge has struck down a North Dakota’s law that landowners say takes away their property rights.

The so-called pore space law passed the Legislature in 2019 after supporters sought clarification on the use of cavities in rock or soil. Pore spaces are used when the petroleum industry injects saltwater from oil and gas production underground for permanent storage or for enhanced oil recovery.

Northeast District Judge Anthony Benson ruled the law unconstitutional because it gives the landowners' value from pore space to the oil and gas industry for free.

The Northwest Landowners Association sued the state in 2019 arguing the law deprives them of their right to be compensated for the use of their pore space.

“With energy development in this state, pore space is a massive, massive part of the puzzle,” said association chairman Troy Coons.

The North Dakota Petroleum Council pushed for the law. The council's president, Ron Ness, said Thursday that he was disappointed in the judge’s ruling, the Bismarck Tribune reported.

“No matter how this court ruled we expected one side to be disappointed,” he said. “We expect to see an appeal, there will be more to come.”