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Federal judge denies EQT’s request for stay in lease calculation dispute

By LINDA HARRIS

The State Journal

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — A federal judge has rejected EQT’s motion to stay proceedings in a long-running lawsuit over its lease payment calculations.

The suit, which alleges EQT has been short-changing its lease holders since December 2009, was filed by the Kay Company LLC, Kanawha County; H. Dotson Cather, trustee of Diana Goff Cather Trusts, and James E. Hamric III, Wood County.

EQT had requested the stay while it pursued an appeal of U.S. District Judge John Bailey’s Sept. 6 decision certifying it as a class action, pointing out Bailey’s order covered “roughly 10,000 West Virginia lessors and 25,000 lease documents” with damages likely to run into “the tens of millions.” EQT contends Bailey erred in certifying the class, suggesting broad variations in the wording of the leases involved make it impossible to certify them as a class.

In his four-page order denying the stay, Bailey took the company to task for “dragging its feet” and said it’s unlikely EQT will prevail on appeal.

“This court has previously noted that this case is the oldest on its docket, ‘the result of the defendants’ continued resistance to the progress of this matter,'” Bailey added.

“If this case drags on any longer, the plaintiffs’ heirs will likely be the only persons who would benefit from a positive outcome for the class.”

Bailey also wrote that “resolving a case within a decade’s time serves the public interest.”

The suit contends EQT improperly deducted costs incurred getting gas from the wellhead to the pipeline.

EQT Communications Director Natalie Cox declined to comment, saying only that, “as this is pending litigation, I am unable to provide you with any additional information or details at this time.”

Charleston Attorney Marvin Masters would say only that his clients were “glad that the stay was not granted and we can grow forward with case, preparing the case for trial” and pointed out the suit had originally been filed in Doddridge County in 2013.

“It’s been pending a while,” Masters said. “We definitely would like to have it resolved.”

Staff writer Linda Harris can be reached at 304-374-0403 or email [email protected]

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