Marshall landowners accuse utility companies in lease dispute

By Robert Hadley | Nov 25, 2015

MOUNDSVILLE – A Marshall County couple is suing four utility companies, alleging the defendants are disputing their ownership of the oil and gas taken from land they purchased in 1996.

Gary and Susan Stern filed a lawsuit June 23 in Marshall Circuit Court against Columbia Gas Transmission, Chesapeake Appalachia, Columbia Energy Venture and SWN Production Co.

According to the complaint, the Sterns purchased two tracts of land, one 56.4 acres and the other 35.29 acres, from Victor Lee and Margaret C. Richmond. The original owners had leased the land for oil and gas extraction to a utility company that merged with others to become the Columbia Gas Transmission Corp., the suit says. Different sublease agreements over the years also included Chesapeake Appalachia, Columbia Energy Venture and SWN Production Co., all named as defendants.

The Sterns allege the defendants’ failure to search the land for oil or gas or to use it as a storage facility during the 10-year lease term did not preserve their rights under the leases. They also say payment of $1 per acre per year likewise failed to preserve the defendants’ rights. Part of the lawsuit also accuses the defendants of slander of title.

The Sterns seek a jury trial and declaratory judgment establishing their rights regarding oil and gas obtained from their land. They are represented by attorney Wray V. Voegelin of Cassidy, Cogan, Shapell & Voegelin in Wheeling.

Marshall Circuit Court case number 15-C-119H.

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