DENVER - Royalty owners have sued one of the largest natural-gas companies in Southwest Colorado, claiming the company owes them higher payments.
A local landowner known as LLH Operations LLLP, plus the estate of Mary B. Fassett, sued Samson Resources for skimping on royalty payments from the natural-gas wells it operates.
The plaintiffs want the judge to give them permission for a class-action lawsuit, meaning other Samson royalty owners could share in the judgment if they win in court.
There are more than 200 Samson royalty owners, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims Samson historically deducted the cost of getting gas to market from its royalty payments - something it's not supposed to do.
Samson recently stopped deducting the costs from royalty payments, but it has not refunded past deductions, according to the lawsuit.
Samson is aware of the lawsuit, and its legal department is investigating it, said Dennis Neill, the company's spokesman and senior vice president.
"We would note that Samson treats its royalty owners fairly, and we will seriously consider the allegations made by individual royalty owners," Neill said.
The claim was filed in state court in La Plata County, but at Samson's request it was pulled into federal court in Denver.
The plaintiffs could try to have it moved back to state courts.
If it stays in federal court, U.S. District Judge Walker D. Miller and Magistrate Judge Kathleen Tafoya will hear the case.
Oklahoma-based Samson is one of the three largest gas producers in La Plata County, behind BP and about as productive as the Southern Ute-owned Red Willow.
The lead plaintiffs' attorney is Bob Miller of Durango.
Miller has handled other royalty-owner lawsuits and won a $233 million judgment against BP on behalf of 4,500 royalty owners in 2005.
In 2007, the Legislature told the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to pass new rules to ensure accurate reporting of how much gas flows out of a well, and to increase the information given to royalty owners.
The commission hasn't done those rules yet because it has been busy with a major rewrite of its environmental rules.