EQT ordered to file motion for amended complaint by Jan. 11

By Kyla Asbury | Jan 1, 2019

CLARKSBURG — EQT Production has been given a January deadline to file a motion for an amended complaint in its case against West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Auston Caperton.

EQT has until Jan. 11 to file a motion for an amended complaint, according to court documents obtained by The West Virginia Record.

District Judge Thomas S. Kleeh filed the order setting the deadline for the amended complaint on Dec.10. On that day, he held a scheduling conference in the matter and heard arguments on the defendant's motion to dismiss.

"As was agreed to during the hearing, the court hereby orders that the plaintiff file its motion to amend complaint, if any, no later than Friday, January 11, 2019," the order states.

The case was originally filed in April challenging the more than 30-year-old law that gives gas owners a larger share of profits.

EQT claims the West Virginia flat-rate statute "fundamentally alters and impairs" the terms of private flat-rate oil and gas leases that were executed before its enactment.

"EQT currently leases from West Virginia mineral owners the right to drill on identified parcels of land for oil and natural gas," the complaint states. "Some of those leases—approximately 1,700—are 'flat-rate' leases that were executed long before West Virginia enacted the Flat-Rate Statute."

EQT believes that under the terms of the 1,700-some leases, EQT is entitled to extract natural gas in exchange for a flat, annual royalty for each producing well that EQT operates on the leasehold premises.

EQT claims the flat-rate statute actually infringes on its vested drilling rights under the flat-rate leases.

"Unless EQT accedes to the compensation scheme devised by the Legislature for payment to lessors—which supplants EQT’s privately negotiated flat-rate payments with a volume-based payment formula—the Flat-Rate Statute bars EQT from receiving permits to drill or rework any well on such a lease," the complaint states. 

EQT claims the flat-rate statute’s volume-based payment formula is calculated at a rate and by a method that has no connection to any identified public purpose.

EQT wants Kleeh to overthrow the statute. It is represented by Kannon K. Shanmugam, Katherine M. Turner, Eden Schiffmann and Mattew J. Greer of Williams & Connolly; and Timothy M. Miller and Katrina N. Bowers of Babst Calland Clements & Zomnir.

When asked for a comment, EQT Media Relations and Brand Manager Linda Robertson said the company could not provide comment or additional details due to pending litigation.

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia Case number: 1:18-cv-00072

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Babst Calland Clements & Zomnir Babst, Calland, Clements & Zomnir PC U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia Clarksburg Division

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