An investigative series by journalist Daniel Gilbert for the Bristol Herald Courier exposed a system that allowed coal and energy corporations in Southwest Virginia to drain natural gas belonging to thousands of landowners without compensation.
The eight-day series, which began in December 2009, explored how gas ownership conflicts led the Virginia Gas and Oil Board to funnel tens of millions of dollars of royalties into escrow accounts over 20 years. Gilbert’s research revealed that gas corporations, virtually unwatched by state regulations, had allegedly established a below-market royalty rate and failed to pay royalties into an escrow account.
Since the series was published, two gas corporations have paid more than $1 million in delinquent royalties, and the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation designed to release royalties held in escrow to landowners.
The Bristol Herald Courier won a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for the reporting of Daniel Gilbert on the mismanagement of natural gas royalties to landowners in Virginia. Here are the links to the articles in Gilbert’s series:
- “Southwest Virginia’s Natural Gas, Underfoot, Out of Reach, Part 8: Sue, split or do nothing,” December 13, 2009
- “Underfoot, Out of Reach, Part Seven: An audit long delayed,” December 12, 2009
- “Underfoot, Out of Reach, Part Six: Where are the gas royalties?” December 11, 2009
- “Natural gas escrow fund bleeding money,” December 10, 2009
- “Coal companies block efforts to access natural gas royalties,” December 9, 2009
- “Captive assets: conflict over gas rights traps royalties in escrow accounts,” December 8, 2009
- “Siphoning natural gas profits from under the feet of landowners,” December 7, 2009
- “Money made from Southwest Va. gas wells isn’t reaching people it should, “ December 6, 2009