Trials & Litigation

Assistant AG's advice to gas companies was 'shocking,' says federal judge

A federal judge expressed alarm in a Wednesday opinion that an assistant attorney general for the state of Virginia has been advising natural gas companies in a court dispute and that a lead lawyer for the plaintiff landowners in the $30 million royalties case called the state their “stooge.”

“Shockingly,” wrote U.S. Magistrate Judge Pamela Meade Sargent, emails given to the court by the plaintiffs showed that assistant attorney general Sharon Pigeon, while advising an intervenor in the litigation, the Virginia Gas and Oil Board, had also been providing advice to two defendant energy companies, CNX Gas Co. and EQT Production Co., reports the Associated Press.

Citing state officials’ watchdog role, plaintiffs attorney Don Barrett contended, “They are stooges for CNX and EQT.”

“Our office’s role is not to provide advice to any private party in this case,” the attorney general’s office said in a written statement provided to the AP. “Our office intervened in the case for the limited purpose of defending the constitutionality of the Virginia Gas and Oil Act. Other issues in the case are matters between the plaintiffs and defendant gas operators.”

Sargent has recommended that the case be allowed to proceed as a class action.

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