- Associated Press - Thursday, December 3, 2015

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The Wyoming Supreme Court has sided with two landowners who sued over idle coal-bed methane wells in need of reclamation on their property.

The case involves a small part of the fallout of Wyoming’s coal-bed methane bust: Companies have walked away from thousands of idle wells over the past five years or so.

Pennaco Energy drilled the wells involved in the case before the state high court.

In 2010, Pennaco sold part of its oil and gas interests in the Powder River Basin to CEP-M Purchase, which reassigned them to a third company, High Plains Gas, according to the state Supreme Court ruling.

Pennaco reserved some rights under the leases but reclamation work and payments to the landowners for damage to their property ceased. The landowners, who were not fully identified in the ruling, sued and prevailed in state district court.

The district court granted a total of $135,374, plus interest, in past-due payments to the landowners. The high court upheld the lower court ruling Wednesday.

The justices found that Pennaco had a responsibility under its agreements with the landowners that remained in effect following transfer of its interests.

“To the contrary, the surface use and water agreements contained numerous indications that Pennaco’s contractual obligations continued even after assignment,” the justices wrote.

The ruling didn’t specify how many idle wells on the landowners’ property needed reclamation.

An attorney for Pennaco, Mark Ruppert in Cheyenne, didn’t immediately respond to a message Thursday seeking comment.

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