By KATE MISHKIN and KEN WARD JR.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The second-largest natural gas producer in West Virginia will pay $53.5 million to settle a lawsuit that alleged the company was cheating thousands of state residents and businesses by shorting them on gas royalty payments, according to terms of the deal unsealed in court this week.
Pittsburgh-based EQT Corp. agreed to pay the money to end a federal class-action lawsuit, brought on behalf of about 9,000 people, which alleged that EQT wrongly deducted a variety of unacceptable charges from peoples’ royalty checks.
The deal is the latest in a series of settlements in cases that accused natural gas companies of engaging in such maneuvers to pocket a larger share of the profits from the boom in natural gas production in West Virginia.
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