United States District Court, D. North Dakota, Northwestern Division
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER
DANIEL L. HOVLAND, District Judge.
Before the Court is the Plaintiff's "Motion for Temporary Restraining Order" filed on February 13, 2015. See Docket No. 3. The Plaintiff, Continental Resources, Inc., seeks a temporary restraining order pursuant to Rule 65(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Specifically, the Plaintiff requests an order prohibiting the Defendant from interfering with the Plaintiff's oil and gas activities on certain real property the Defendant owns in Mountrail County, North Dakota. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants the Plaintiff's motion for a temporary restraining order.
The Plaintiff, Continental Resources, Inc., ("Continental"), is an Oklahoma corporation with its principal place of business located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Continental is an oil and gas exploration company with operations in western North Dakota and elsewhere.
The Defendant, Art Langved, is a North Dakota resident and the surface estate owner of certain real property ("Subject Property") in Mountrail County, North Dakota, described as follows:
Langved also owns an interest in the oil and gas underneath the Subject Property. Continental alleges it owns a leasehold interest in the oil and gas in and under a two-section spacing unit described as Sections 15 and 22, Township 153 North, Range 93 West, Mountrail County, North Dakota ("Spacing Unit"). The lease covering all of Langved's interest in the oil and gas in and under the Spacing Unit was signed in 2004. See Docket No. 1-1. The lease was assigned to Continental in 2013. See Docket No. 1-2. Continental's leasehold interest in the Subject Property grants it the exclusive right to conduct drilling and production operations on the Subject Property and to use as much of the surface estate of the Subject Property as is reasonably necessary to exercise its leasehold rights. Those rights include the exclusive right to use the land for oil and gas exploration and production along with rights of way and easements for laying pipelines and related infrastructure. See Docket No. 1-1.
On or about July 17, 2014, Continental applied for and was granted permits from the North Dakota Industrial Commission ("Industrial Commission") to drill three wells on the Spacing Unit that includes the Subject Property. Thereafter, Continental drilled the three wells ("Margaurite Wells") from a surface location within the Subject Property. Continental is currently working on pipeline and electric utility infrastructure to service those wells. In addition, Continental has plans to drill six additional wells on or near the Subject Property.
Continental contends Langved has interfered with its leasehold. Langved sought to prevent Continental from drilling the Margaurite Wells and now seeks to prevent Continental from laying pipelines and developing other infrastructure that is necessary to produce and market oil and gas from the wells.
During the summer of 2014 when Continental was preparing to drill the Margaurite Wells, Langved and/or his agent, Tom Gray ("Gray") constructed or caused to be constructed a shack within five-hundred feet of the proposed surface location of the Margaurite Wells. Langved then contacted the Industrial Commission on July 21, 2014, the same day Continental planned to begin drilling operations, demanding Continental's drilling operations be halted based on Continental's allegedly having violated the five hundred-foot setback requirement.
Langved's actions prompted the Industrial Commission to halt Continental's drilling activities temporarily as it evaluated Langved's claim. On July 22, 2014, the Industrial Commission informed Continental it could proceed with drilling its wells, concluding the shack was a mere ploy to delay drilling.
On July 23, 2014, Tom Gray, an individual who owns no interest in the property but has been acting as an agent of Langved, was acting erratically and at times aggressively toward Continental employees or contractors at the well site, including using strong language in an attempt to stop Continental's drilling operations. Gray's aggressive behavior nearly caused an accident involving a pickup truck pulling a forty-foot trailer on a highway near the well site. The pickup was moving at a speed of approximately 65 miles per hour when Gray pulled onto the highway immediately in front of the pickup, forcing the driver of the pickup to take evasive action to avoid Gray's vehicle. The driver was able to narrowly avoid Gray's vehicle. After the near accident, Gray drove a vehicle onto the section line right-of-way that provides access to the Margaurite Wells, blocking access to the well site. The vehicle remained in place for the remainder of the day on July 23.
In January 2015, Continental's contractor informed Langved that pipelines and electric utility infrastructure would be installed on the Subject Property to service the Margaurite Wells. Langved responded that such infrastructure would only be installed "over [his] dead body." See Docket No. 1, ¶ 19.
By letter dated January 19, 2015, Continental notified Langved, in accordance with Chapter 38-11.1 of the North Dakota Century Code, of Continental's intention to install pipelines and electric utilities on the Subject Property and offered to compensate him for the damage. See Docket No. 1-3. After the 20-day statutory waiting period expired, Continental's contractors entered the property on or about February 9, 2015, and began work on installation of the pipelines and electric utility line.
On February 12, 2015, Langved appeared on the Subject Property and ordered Continental's contractor to leave. Specifically, Langved informed the workers and safety personnel on site that "I ought to go to my house and get my rifle and then you guys will leave." See Docket No. 5, ¶ 7. Langveld also struck a service vehicle and used loud and foul language to berate the contractor's employees for disturbing his property without permission. Feeling threatened, the contractor's employees left the area.
Continental filed a complaint in this Court on February 12, 2015. See Docket No. 1. The complaint makes claims for declaratory and injunctive relief under the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201. Continental filed a motion for a temporary restraining order along with its complaint. See Docket No. 3. Continental seeks to restrain and enjoin Langved from interfering with Continental's oil and gas development activities on the Subject Property including its right to install pipelines, electric lines, and other infrastructure that is reasonably necessary to explore for, produce, and market oil and gas produced by those wells. until further order of the Court. While Continental anticipates it ...