(03/09/2007)
By Bob Weaver

Gov. Joe Manchin is keeping his promise to "clarify" the rights of royalty owners pitted against natural gas producers in West Virginia.

He says he will call a special session of the legislature to deal with the issue, after a Roane County jury awarded $404 million to the royalty holders.

Royalty holders say they got ripped-off by Chesapeake Energy and other producers.

The gas producers contend they have the right to charge production costs against the one-eighth (or other amount) owned by royalty holders.

Advocates for royalty owners say the move is a final take-over of royalty right ownership in West Virginia by the extractors.

Still in the air is who owns the water being caught and held in the state, as water "producers" are moving toward multi-national ownership.

The Legislature's 60-day regular session comes to a close at midnight Saturday.

The governor hopes to convene a one-day special session to pass the necessary legislation. Manchin also says one of the companies in the case, Chesapeake Energy, is wrong for funding an aggressive anti-coal ad campaign in Texas.

The governor says the US can't afford to pit one of its energy sources against another.

A hearing is scheduled Monday in Spencer at 3 p.m. to hear a request of Spencer newspaper publisher David Hedges, who objected last week when the public and press was being excluded from the settlement hearings.

Hedges said "There is no jury, so why not let the public know," about the settlement negotiations between the principal parties.

Read earlier stories regarding the gas royalty case by using search: Chesapeake


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