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Slawson Exploration Company, Inc v. Edward S. Danks

August 2, 2012

SLAWSON EXPLORATION COMPANY, INC., PLAINTIFF,
v.
EDWARD S. DANKS, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Daniel L. Hovland, District Judge United States District Court

ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER

Before the Court is Slawson Exploration Company, Inc.'s "Motion for Temporary Restraining Order Without Notice," filed on July 31, 2012. See Docket No. 2. The motion was submitted pursuant to Rule 65 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons explained below, the motion is granted.

I. BACKGROUND

Slawson Exploration Company, Inc. ("Slawson Exploration") is an oil and gas exploration company that conducts oil and gas drilling activities in North Dakota. Slawson Exploration claims that it has the right to conduct drilling and production activities on and under a certain surface estate owned by defendant Edward S. Danks. See Docket No. 4, p. 1. The property is located in McKenzie County, North Dakota and is more precisely described as follows:

Township 151 North, Range 94 West

Sec: 20: W/2

See Docket No. 4, p. 1. Slawson Exploration contends that Danks is a member of the Three Affiliated Tribes of Fort Berthold Reservation and the surface rights to the land were allotted to him by virtue of his tribal membership.

Slawson Exploration claims that, by virtue of its interest in the oil and gas leasehold estate, it has a valid permit from the North Dakota Industrial Commission to conduct drilling and production activities on and under the property. See Docket Nos. 4, p. 1 and 4-2. The company contends it obtained permission from the United States Department of Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs to construct a well pad and access road on the surface of the property. See Docket No. 4-3. Also, Slawson Exploration entered into an agreement with Danks, as the surface estate holder, that grants Slawson Exploration the right to conduct drilling and production activity on the property. See Docket No. 4-1. However, the company contends that Danks is interfering with its access to the land and ability to conduct drilling activity. Slawson Exploration presents this ex parte motion for a temporary restraining order seeking to enjoin Danks from such interference.

II. LEGAL DISCUSSION

Pursuant to Rule 65(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and in determining whether a temporary restraining order should be granted, the court is required to consider the factors set forth in Dataphase Sys., Inc., v. C L Sys., Inc., 640 F.2d 109, 114 (8th Cir. 1981). Whether a temporary restraining order should be granted involves consideration of "(1) the threat of irreparable harm to the movant; (2) the state of balance between this harm and the injury that granting the injunction will inflict on other parties litigant; (3) the probability that movant will succeed on the merits; and (4) the public interest." Id.

It is well-established that the movant has the burden of establishing the necessity of a temporary restraining order. Baker Elec. Coop., Inc. v. Chaske, 28 F.3d 1466, 1472 (8th Cir. 1994); Modern Computer Sys., Inc. v. Modern Banking Sys., Inc., 871 F.2d 734, 737 (8th Cir. 1989). "No single factor is dispositive; in each case all of the factors must be considered to determine whether on balance they weigh towards granting the injunction." Baker Elec. Coop., Inc., 28 F.3d at 1472 (quoting Calvin Klein Cosmetics Corp. v. Lenox Labs., Inc., 815 F.2d 500, 503 (8th Cir. 1987)).

A. IRREPARABLE HARM

The plaintiff must establish there is a threat of irreparable harm if injunctive relief is not granted and that such harm is not compensable by money damages. Doe v. LaDue, 514 F. Supp. 2d 1131, 1135 (D. Minn. 2007) (citing Northland Ins. Co. v. Blaylock, 115 F. Supp. 2d 1108, 1116 (D. Minn. 2000)). "The 'mere possibility' that harm may occur before a trial on the merits is not enough." Johnson v. Bd. of Police Comm'rs, 351 F. Supp. 2d 929, 945 (E. D. Mo. 2004). The party that seeks injunctive relief must show that a significant risk of harm exists. Doe, 514 F. Supp. 2d at 1135 (citing Johnson, 351 F. Supp. 2d at 945). The absence of such a showing is sufficient grounds to deny injunctive relief. Id. (citing Gelco v. Coniston Partners, 811 F.2d 414, 420 (8th Cir. 1987)).

Slawson Exploration contends that Danks's interference with its right to access the land and conduct drilling activities is causing, and will continue to cause, irreparable harm because it will not be able to commence construction of the wellsite or access road; it will not be able to commence drilling the proposed well prior to the expiration of its permit on August 24, 2012; and its interest in the mineral leasehold estate may be lost. Irreparable harm may be shown where money damages are insufficient to remedy the prospective harm. Id. The Court finds that Slawson Exploration has shown that ...


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