Stonewall land owners say Chesapeake owes them money

Local

A group of landowners from Desoto Parish were in court Tuesday discussing an ongoing lawsuit against Chesapeake for unpaid mineral rights.

The land owners live in Stonewall and said Chesapeake is deriving and producing gas from homeowner’s properties nearby, but those homeowners are not being paid properly or fairly for that production.

Allen and Linda Johnson and a dozen of their neighbors filed the lawsuit against Chesapeake back in 2016. Johnson said he started sending letters to Chesapeake in 2009 after he noticed he wasn’t getting the payments from gas being produced on his land.

“It’s been very stressful to be honest. We’ve been fighting this since 2009. It’s taking up a lot of our time. We’ve had several people in our section that’s passed away that didn’t get to enjoy the mineral rights. So it’s been stressful and they’ve put us through the mill,” said Allen Johnson, Stonewall land owner.

He said finally received a payment after filing the lawsuit, but he says it’s not for the right amount and he’s still owed money.

“We just think Allen and his neighbors need to be paid their fair share. The law provides for what that fair share is. All were trying to do is have Chesapeake comply with the law,” said Andrew Martin, associate attorney, Johnson v. Chesapeake La.

Their lawsuit claims Chesapeake deducted “post-production” cost but never told the land owners what those costs were. Chesapeake’s attorneys argue the land owners fall under an ownership category where they’re not entitled to recovering any of those post-production costs, basically saying they’re not owed anything. 

Johnson’s attorney argues the land owners are being taken advantage of by the oil and gas company. 

“The case is about property rights, the rights of owners and land. What happens when an oil company comes in to develop on their area when they don’t consent and the right to be paid for the mineral development for their property,” said Grant Summers, lead attorney, Johnson v. Chesapeake La. 

In court, District Court Judge Maurice Hicks said this is an unique case not necessarily covered under current mineral rights code. He’ll consider both arguments for a later decision.  

Around a dozen land owners were in court Tuesday. Summers expects it to go to trial sometime in 2019.

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