WV Supreme Court Reverses Itself, Post-Production Deductions OK

In a decision that will thrill drillers, but anger landowners, the West Virginia Supreme Court decided last week to overturn its own previous decision (from just last December) and allow driller EQT to deduct post-production expenses from royalty payments. Last December MDN reported on the huge West Virginia Supreme Court decision against driller EQT that disallows EQT from deducting post-production expenses from royalty checks, even with signed contracts in place (see WV Supreme Court Rules EQT Can’t Deduct P-P Costs from Royalties). The justices, in their ruling, said that drillers can “not deduct from that (royalty) amount any expenses that have been incurred in gathering, transporting or treating the oil or gas after it has been initially extracted, any sums attributable to a loss or beneficial use of volume beyond that initially measured or any other costs that may be characterized as post-production.” A really big deal. Then in February, with a brand new justice on the bench, the WV Supreme Court agreed to rehear the case after an appeal filed by EQT–a rare and unusual step (see EQT Catches Big Break in WV Supreme Court re Royalty Deductions). Those who won the case say newly elected Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth D. Walker has conflicts of interest and should not have been allowed to vote to rehear the case in the first place (which she did). On that basis, they tried to avoid the rehearing altogether, but that failed, and lawyers were in court arguing the case earlier this month. As it turns out, the lawyers mainly argued over the meaning of three short words: “at the wellhead” (see WV Supreme Court Post-Production Royalty Case Hinges on 3 Words). On Friday, the justices reversed their earlier decision, voting 4-1 in favor of allowing EQT to deduct “reasonable” post-production expenses (copy of the decision below). Newly elected Justice Beth Walker, with (according to the other side) conflicts of interest, voted in favor of EQT. This has BIG implications for landowners and drillers in the Mountain State…

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