Thousands of property owners in South Western Virginia say they were cheated out of royalties for methane gas extracted from their land. A federal judge will consider a recommendation this week on whether their cases can move forward as a class action lawsuit.
Lawsuits filed in 2010 accuse 2 coal companies of refusing to pay landowners for natural gas extracted from their properties. They say they granted the companies rights to extract only coal. Natural gas, which consists mostly of methane, is often found near coals seams. Attorney Donald Barrett of Lexington Mississippi is representing the landowners, in a dispute, which dates back decades, over who owns rights to the gas.
Attorney, Donald Barrett: “These companies have cheated these people, taken deductions that they shouldn’t ‘have taken charged unreasonable amounts for things that they did have a right to charge something for. In other words they overcharge and underpay and we caught them and they ‘re going to have to make an accounting.
Barrett says Pennsylvania energy companies, EQT Production and CNX Gas Company have disobeyed a 2004 Virginia Supreme court ruling, which said the methane rights belong to the landowners. Neither company responded to requests for comments.
If U.S. District Judge James Jones approves a recommendation from a federal Magistrate, and certifies the lawsuits as a class action, an estimated 10 to 20 thousand South Western Virginia Land Owners could join the suit. Judge Jones will hear arguments Thursday in Abingdon.