PA Superior Court Rules in Favor of CNX in Royalty Case

courtgavel.jpgAn important case regarding royalties was ruled on in the Superior Court of Pennsylvania on April 7th. As with many of these cases, this one is complicated. We’ll do our best to summarize it. A husband and wife leased their property in the 1990s to a company that eventually sold the least to CNX (i.e. CONSOL Energy). The couple later signed another lease with CNX in 2002. Both leases states that CNX will pay the couple one-eighth of the sale price for the gas as a royalty. But more than just the wells on the couple’s land are commingled in a drilling unit, so the way CNX calculate the royalties (as per the lease) is to measure the amount of production at the wellhead and divide accordingly. If the couple’s well produced 20% of the overall volume produced by all the wells in the unit, they get 20% of one-eighth of the sale price. But here’s the thing: the amount of gas that eventually gets sold “down the pipeline” is less than what is produced at the wellhead. As gas travels through pipelines and compressor stations, some of it disappears. The couple’s attorney says because CNX can’t account for 100% of the gas that disappears (maybe more disappears from the neighbor than his client), that CNX is in breach of the lease and owes the couple a royalty based on the gas produced at the wellhead and not based on what is eventually sold “down the pipeline.” A lower court ruled in favor of CNX. Now, the Superior Court of PA has also ruled in favor of CNX and says the clever legal reasoning by the couple’s attorney doesn’t hold water…

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