A federal judge in Abingdon is scheduled to hear arguments in lawsuits accusing two energy companies of shortchanging southwest Virginia landowners out of royalties for natural gas drawn from coal beds.
The hearing Thursday will focus on attempts by the landowners to dramatically broaden the dispute to involve thousands of landowners who had methane gas drilled on their land. U.S. District Judge James P. Jones will consider a recommendation from U.S. Magistrate Judge Pamela Meade Sargent that four lawsuits be certified as class actions.
Jones is not expected to rule immediately.
The plaintiffs name EQT Production Co. and CNX Gas Co., Pittsburgh-area energy companies with thousands of natural gas wells in Appalachia.
Both companies have denied claims they cheated landowners out of royalties.