Parachute rancher files class action suit against Williams Production
A lawsuit brought by Parachute rancher Sid Lindauer against oil and gas developer Williams Production may have a far-ranging effect on mineral rights owners in Garfield County.Lindauer filed a class-action suit in Garfield County District Court last week against Williams for underpayment of royalties. Lindauer ‘s wife Ruth and brother Ivo are also plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Also named are all the mineral rights owners in the county.The lawsuit contends that Williams did not properly calculate royalty payments “because it has failed to fully account for the proceeds that it receives from the sale of gas products,” the court filing said. Williams also charged expenses for placing “gas in a marketable condition to deliver to the commercial marketplace” to the mineral owners, deducting those expenses from the owners’ royalties.Attorney Nathan Keever, with the Grand Junction law firm of Dufford, Waldeck, Milburn and Krohn, said, “It’s our contention that (Williams) set aside taxes in an escrow account, paid the tax and kept the rest.”Williams spokeswoman Susan Alvillar said, “We’re evaluating the claim by the plaintiffs, but because it’s in court we are not able to comment any further.”Keever’s firm also represented mineral owners Joan Savage and the late Bill Clough, who also sued Williams for underpayment of royalties. After a lengthy legal process, Savage was awarded $500,000 and Clough $4 million. Savage’s case has been settled, and Clough’s is currently in appeal by Williams.”Starting with Savage, we got (Williams) to stop taking some deductions,” Keever said. “We got a little more with Clough.”Although Williams paid back royalties to all its mineral owners at that time, “it’s our belief they’re doing it again,” taking unwarranted deductions and incorrectly pricing its gas, Keever said.With the Lindauer suit, Keever said a class action approach seemed the best avenue to take.”You can’t go against Williams if you’re small financially,” he said. “The idea was how to put together (a suit) that would help everyone … so we don’t have to do this over and over again.”He said he has “a long string of people who are interested in suing Williams over their royalties.”Nor is Williams the only target of lawsuits. EnCana Oil & Gas (USA) has also been named in a class action suit filed by mineral owners across the state. That suit accuses EnCana of “general skimming,” Keever said, “taking improper deductions and pricing incorrectly.”Keever said he hopes the Lindauer case will put the matter of underpaid royalties to rest. “I hope this is the last royalty suit against Williams.”Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. email@example.com
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