Brian R. Bjella

Brian R. Bjella


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Representative Matters

  • Represented clients in permitting numerous projects and contested cases before the North Dakota Public Service for pipelines; coal mines; electric transmission lines and wind farms. Including representing clients in challenges to permitted projects before state and federal courts. Coordinated development of several large carbon sequestration projects. Preparation of complex title opinions - including multi-well acquisition projects.

Brian R. Bjella is Senior Counsel in the firm’s Bozeman Energy, Environment & Natural Resources Department. He joined the firm in 2009 after practicing with Fleck, Mather & Strutz, Ltd., in Bismarck, North Dakota since 1980. His primary areas of practice are natural resources and public utilities law.

A significant portion of Brian’s practice involves representing energy clients in permitting facilities before the North Dakota Public Service Commission. He has extensive experience in preparation of mineral title opinions. Brian has litigated contract and property law issues before state and federal courts. Recently he has coordinated several large carbon sequestration projects.

Brian is a former board member and treasurer of the Lignite Energy Council, a coal industry trade association. He has been very active in the Foundation for Natural Resources and Energy Law (formerly Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation), serving on the Special Institutes Committee, and as chair of the Long Range Planning Committee and the Philanthropic Model committee, several program committees and presenting papers at annual or special institutes. He has been appointed a trustee of the Foundation on two occasions, and twice been elected to serve on the board of directors.

Practice Areas

Bar Admission

North Dakota, 1979
Montana, 1997


1979 – J.D., University of North Dakota
1975 – B.A., Cum Laude, University of North Dakota

Prior Experience (Employment)

Prior to joining the firm, Brian served as an Assistant Attorney General representing the North Dakota Department of Trust Lands.

Honors & Awards

Best Lawyers in America – Lawyer of the Year, Natural Resources Law (2022)
Best Lawyers in America for Mining Law and Natural Resources Law (2007-present)
Best Lawyers’ 2013 Natural Resources Law “Lawyer of the Year” in Bismarck
Great Plains Super Lawyers – Energy & Natural Resources (2011-2021)

Community Involvement

Brian is committed to civic involvement. He has served or is serving on the following charitable boards: the Child’s Hope Learning Center, a preschool for special needs children; United Way, having served as campaign chair in 1997, Board President in 1999 and on the board of trustees; Board member and past President of the Tom and Frances Leach Foundation, a private foundation granting funds for charitable purposes; the Board of Trustees of the YMCA; and Board of Directors of Luther Seminary. Brian has also been active in the Chamber of Commerce, serving as the government relations committee chair for the 1997 legislative session, and on the major employers committee.

Professional Affiliations

North Dakota State Bar Association
State Bar of Montana
American Bar Association
Foundation for Natural Resources and Energy Law
American Association of Professional Landmen

Presentations & Publications

“Removing the Operator Under the Joint Operating Agreement,” (1999)
“Management of Water and Water Quality in Coal Mining: A Legal Perspective” (2002)
“Are Landmen Practicing Law? The Legal & Ethical Issues,” (2003)
“Advanced Mineral Conveyancing and Title Issues,” (2007)
Co-authored “Common Issues in Preparation of a Title Opinion,” (2012, 2015 & 2019)
Co-authored “Riparian Rights – Ownership of Minerals Under Rivers and Lakes” (2014)

Reported Decisions / Cases

Hild v. Johnson, 723 N.W.2d 389 (ND 2006); Duncan Energy Co. v. Three Affiliated Tribes, 27 F.3d 1294 (8th Cir. 1994); Coteau Properties Co. v. Oster, 606 N.W.2d 876 (ND 2000); Burk v. Nance Petroleum. Corp., 10 F.3d 539 (8th Cir. 1993); Dakota Resource Council v. N.D. Public Service Commission, 815 N.W.2d 286 (ND 2012); McLain v. Meier, 637 F.2d 1159 (8th Cir. 1980); Voigt v. N. D. Public Service Commission, 892 NW2d 149 (ND 2017).