EQT ordered to pay $190,000 in damages
CHARLESTON — EQT Corp., a hydrocarbon and pipeline transport company headquartered in Pittsburgh, was ordered to pay $190,000 in damages by the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia on Wednesday.
According to the opinion written by Justice John Hutchinson, EQT violated the original lease signed in 1901 with the owners of a 351-acre area of land in Doddridge County known as the “Carr Tract,” named after the land’s original owners. The lease granted access to the land for EQT to drill vertical wells to extract the gas from directly below the property.
The opinion states that over the years, the surface land has been sold and split up into multiple parcels that have been used as homesteads. In the 1970s a portion of the land was purchased by Margot Beth Crowder and David Wentz.
In 2011, EQT approached the current owners of the mineral rights to modify the lease to give them the right to drill horizontally from the Carr Tract location into adjoining lands that the company had also leased mineral rights from. The area that gas was being removed from jumped from 351 acres to 3,232 acres in 2012.
EQT was forced to clear 42 acres of land on the Carr Tract, build multiple two lane roads, construct a 19.7-acre well pad and drill nine more wells to withdraw the extra gas from the expansion.
In mid-2012, lawyers for the plaintiffs notified EQT they were violating the original lease by using their property to retrieve the minerals from neighboring leases. EQT argued that since over 35 percent of the minerals taken was from the original tract, they had a right to use methods “reasonably necessary” to extract it.
According to the brief, the plaintiffs said “reasonably necessary” methods only applied to the minerals directly below the surface of the land leased. The court agreed with the plaintiffs and upheld the Sept. 26, 2017 judgment by the Doddridge County Circuit Court and ordered EQT to pay $119,000 in damages to the pair of plaintiffs.