CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A settlement in a class action lawsuit against natural gas giant EQT by 9,500 royalty owners means great things for the future. At least that’s the assessment of Tom Huber, who leads the West Virginia Royalty Owners Association.
“We hope going forward the relationship between lessors and land owners and the oil and gas industry improves and we can have a thriving industry and the people of West Virginia can benefit from that industry,” Huber said.
A federal judge this week signed off on the settlement which includes $53.5 Million dollars. The settlement was announced in February, but only this week was approved. Those members of the class will be able to apply for compensation from the settlement later this year.
Huber isn’t as excited about the dollar figure as he is the changes in how future royalties are calculated, another part of the settlement which he thinks will mean a more fair share of the royalty for those who own the mineral rights.
“The 53 Million dollars is the headline grabber, but from our standpoint we look at the terms reached about the payments, royalties, and how they’ll be paid and calculated,” Huber said. “We’re fairly pleased with those terms.”
The suit was filed on claims by lessors the companies was shortchanging their share of gas royalties by deducting post-production expenses from those royalty payments. It was a practice EQT and others in the industry had used for years to sidestep larger payments to thousands of residents and businesses owners. EQT maintained they had done nothing wrong.
Going forward Huber believes the future is much brighter for both the companies and the people who own the mineral rights in West Virginia.
“We haven’t really even scratched the surface of Marcellus and Utica in West Virginia,” he said. “The amount of future royalties being affected by the other terms of the settlement are massive.”