NEPA Landowners Fight to Sue Chesapeake’s Partners

We’re going to take a stab at this, and we are not confident we will get it 100% right. With that as a warning, we recently reported that a case brought by landowners in northeastern PA against Chesapeake Energy over unwarranted royalty deductions suffered a bit of a setback (see Chesapeake Scores Court Victory to Prevent PA Royalty Class Action). Essentially, the landowners (in this case Scout Energy) argued that since the leases signed say royalty disputes must go to arbitration, we want mass arbitration. A class action, in other words. In May, U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann of the Middle District of Pennsylvania (overseeing the case) issued an opinion that said Chesapeake is right in demanding each case get arbitrated individually–not as part of a class action. The landowners in four cases (all of which seem to be joined, or at least moving along together) filed briefs last week to make a new argument. And here’s where we are not 100% sure, but we think the argument is this: OK, we have to go to arbitration and now it has to be individually. However, there are other defendants named in the case (Anadarko, Williams, Statoil, Mitsui E&P). Since the lease language says the lease is between the landowner and the driller (i.e. Chesapeake), that means the other defendants are NOT covered by the arbitration clause and we (the landowners) can still sue them as a class action. Why? Because (allegedly) those companies colluded together with Chesapeake to “reduce, restrain or eliminate competition for gas and mineral rights, operations rights and gathering serves in multiple counties in Northern Pennsylvania.” Oy vey! It keeps getting more complicated as the days go by…

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