CHARLESTON – The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals has issued an order stating that it will not cancel Tuesday’s scheduled oral argument in a rehearing petition of an appeal in a lawsuit filed by mineral owners against EQT Production Company.
The order was filed April 26. Court Clerk Rory L. Perry II said the motion to stop oral arguments was moot and the May 2 arguments would continue.
“On this day…the Honorable Elizabeth D. Walker, Justice of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia, notified the Clerk pursuant to Rule 33(g) of her decision not to disqualify herself in the…proceeding under Canon 2, Rule 2.11 of the Code of Judicial Conduct,” the order states.
Accordingly, the petitioner’s motion, which was filed on April 24, is moot.
Natural gas royalty owners who are suing EQT Corp. over the company’s payment practices said Walker improperly took part in a vote in January in which the court decided to grant EQT’s request to reconsider the case.
The mineral owners allege that because Walker did not take part in the court’s original ruling in the case and that her husband, Mike Walker, owns stock in several different natural gas and related energy companies, she should not take place in the oral arguments.
Mike Walker loaned his wife’s campaign $525,000, and the combination of his stock holdings and the loans created the “appearance of impropriety,” lawyers for Patrick Leggett said in their motion filed with the Supreme Court.
On Nov. 17, the court ruled against EQT in part of a long legal batter over natural gas royalty payments in the Marcellus Shale region of North-Central West Virginia and the Northern Panhandle. The case had been argued in September.
In that ruling, the court said EQT could not deduct post-production expenses from the royalties paid to mineral owners covered by a provision of a 1982 flat rate state law that provided for one-eighth royalties.
In December, EQT’s attorneys filed a petition for rehearing, which was granted on Jan. 25.
W.Va. Supreme Court of Appeals case number: 16-0136