Home Energy and Environment Private landowners score settlement victory in royalty case against Chesapeake Energy

Private landowners score settlement victory in royalty case against Chesapeake Energy

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As questions surrounding the trustworthiness of U.S. utility companies continue, landowners in Southwest Virginia recently reached a $3.4 million tentative settlement in a class-action lawsuit with Chesapeake Energy Corp. for underpaying landowners for decades.

The rights in question refer to the right of Chesapeake Energy Corp., a subsidiary of Chesapeake Appalachia, to extract methane from underneath the ground of private landowners.

The tentative settlement of $3.4 million would be divided among nearly 2,000 landowners. The final settlement hearing is set for October 4.

Similar class-action lawsuits are also awaiting trial in federal court in southwest Virginia involving CNX Gas Co. and EQT Production Co.

It should be little surprise that given to their own devices, private utilities are willing to break their word as willingly as they are to give it to private property-owners, effectively cheating these individuals out of the money that legally belongs to them.

We are asked, moreover, whether implicitly or explicitly, to trust the integrity of these companies as they rummage through Virginia’s remaining underground energy stores. We are asked to trust in their willingness to safeguard human and environmental health while making a profit, to be fair and to work within the law.

But what does the criminal justice system do with repeat offenders of the law? Do we simply throw them back into society with a slap on the wrist?

Why should utilities be treated any different from the common criminal? The answer is they shouldn’t.

Until there is accountability on the side of private utilities to abide by the law and look out for their communities, they will always look for the easy way out. The problem is, the easy way out for them can be deadly or devastating to many Virginians.