(10/19/2010)
About 100 northern West Virginia property owners are accusing Range Resources Corp. in a federal lawsuit of cheating them on natural gas leases.

The lawsuit says Fort Worth, Texas-based Range went back on leases that offered $3,500 per acre and a 17 percent royalty for production, according to the Wheeling Intelligencer.

According to the suit, Range canceled the agreements after oil and gas prices began falling in 2008.

Representatives of Range gave landowners the impression they'd be receiving six-figure checks before the company even drilled, according to lawyer Edgar Heiskell, who filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Wheeling.

The plaintiffs are property owners from Monongalia, Preston, Marion and Harrison counties.

All the leases involve the Marcellus Shale, the vast rock formation holding trillions of cubic feet of natural gas under the WV hills.

The attorney said, "These plaintiffs believe they have been the victims of consumer fraud...We are seeking the amount that was originally offered to them."

Range spokesman Matt Pitzarella claims the company did nothing wrong, claiming the contracts required management approval and that never happened.

The suit says landmen told the holders it was "a mere formality."

The lawsuit says property owners turned down offers of $1,000 per acre and a 15 percent royalty from other producers because they thought they had a deal with Range.


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