Lawsuits accusing two energy companies of cheating southwest Virginia landowners out of royalty payments for natural gas siphoned from coal seams are headed to a showdown that could dramatically expand the scope of the legal action.
At a hearing this week in Abingdon, a U.S. district judge will consider a recommendation from a U.S. magistrate judge that four lawsuits be certified as class actions representing thousands of property owners who've had the gas extracted from their land.
But a ruling isn't expected immediately. The plaintiffs name EQT Production Co. and CNX Gas Co., companies with thousands of wells in Appalachia.
CNX parent CONSOL Energy said it supports the "fair and efficient" distribution of royalties held in a state escrow account to property owners.