Following obtaining the lease, an oil and gas production company’s or a pipeline company’s first opportunity to frame their relationship with a surface owner may well be when they make a pitch to obtain an easement on the owner’s land. And, not surprisingly, first impressions are so very important for good right-of-way harmony. Indeed, landowners in North Dakota’s Bakken are beginning to suffer from what many are calling easement fatigue, and while surface owners were fairly accommodating during an earlier time of the boom, they are now tiring of being approached, perhaps in part because of poor initial experiences.
Additionally, in North Dakota and Montana, the surface estate is often severed from the mineral estate, meaning that the land owner is not receiving royalties or directly benefiting from all of the activity on or the production of oil or gas from under the owner’s land. More and more landowners are now reluctant to grant an easement early in the process, some will not do so without significant consideration, and some will not do so at all. Without the early granting of easements, companies are often not able to construct the necessary infrastructure needed to reduce flaring of natural gas during periods when production of the gas is at its highest levels.
To address this issue, the North Dakota Petroleum Council has formed a right-of-way (ROW) task force consisting of landowners, local government officials, industry representatives, and staff from state agencies including the State Energy Impact Coordinator, Pipeline Authority, Department of Transportation, and the Attorney General’s office. The ROW task force is considering concerns of landowners, attempting to enhance communication before and after an easement has been obtained, and may be reviewing possible legislation for the 2015 North Dakota General Assembly.