A jury’s verdict ordered an oil and gas company, EQT, to pay Doddridge County residents for trespassing and building a shale gas drilling pad without expressed permission.
The jury awarded two Doddridge county surface owners a combined $190,000. Surface owners David Wentz and Beth Crowder say EQT trespassed when the company decided to use surface property to drill into mineral deposits of adjacent properties. County Circuit Judge Timothy Sweeney ruled the residents were entitled to fair rental value for use of the land in this potentially landmark decision.
“It’s the first time that we know of that has been decided by a court of law,” said David Grubb, the lawyer who represented Wentz and Crowder.
Grubb said the lawsuit ultimately reflects that methods used to drill for shale gas have much more significant impacts on surface properties than conventional gas drilling.
“The difference between conventional, vertical well and a horizontal well pad where you may have nine or ten separate wells going in different directions — it’s night and day in terms of the amount of fracking, trucking, gas and pipeline that’s involved,” Grubb explained. “The burden on the surface is much, much greater.”
He hopes the precedent will provide clarity for other cases and insight for landowners who are negotiating agreements with gas companies.
In an email, a spokesperson for EQT said the company respects the jury’s decision and is pleased with the outcome.