US judge OKs natural gas class actions in Virginia suits

US judge OKs natural gas class actions in Virginia suits by Steve Szkotak, The Associated Press, October 1, 2013,
A federal judge has certified a handful of class-action lawsuits accusing two energy companies of cheating southwest Virginia residents out of tens of millions of dollars in royalty payments for natural gas drilled on their land. The lead attorney for the landowners said Tuesday he will ask for a summary judgment in the case and a full financial accounting from the companies for the thousands of wells they drilled in Virginia’s coalfields region to capture the methane gas from coal seams. “This is a body blow to the defendants,” said Don Barrett, an attorney for the landowners who filed the initial lawsuits. “It’s a wake-up call to them.” U.S. District Judge James P. Jones accepted the recommendations Monday of a magistrate judge who concluded in June that the lawsuits should move forward as class actions.

CONSOL Energy Inc., the Pittsburgh-area parent of CNX Gas Co., said in a statement it disagreed with the finding and was weighing its options. EQT Production Co. said it would appeal a portion of Jones’ ruling. In arguing against class-action status last month, the energy companies said they had heeded state law and had done nothing wrong.

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