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The Associated Press

GREEN RIVER, Wyo. (AP) — A special master is expected to decide next month on class action status for 11 mineral royalty lawsuits filed in 3rd District Court.

Now-retired Judge John Troughton named Green River attorney Ford Bussart special master of the cases. Bussart held a five-day hearing on the issue last month.

The lawsuits claim that several oil and gas companies violated the Wyoming Royalty Payment Act by improperly deducting certain production costs from royalty payments.

The Wyoming Royalty Payment Act provides for a royalty recipient to get $100 a month when certain earnings and expenses go unreported and 18 percent per year in interest on unpaid royalties.

“This translates into a lot of money to a company,” said Cody Balzer, one of six attorneys representing the plaintiffs. “It adds up to millions and millions.”

Balzer, who works for the Casper firm Balzer Carman Murdock P.C., said thousands of people could become involved if Bussart certifies the lawsuits filed June 29 as class action cases.

“Many of them, their interests are small enough that absent a class action, they may never recover any relief,” he said.

The companies being sued include Questar Exploration and Production Co., Questar Gas Co., Wexpro Co., North American Resources Co., Belco Energy Corp., Ocean Energy Resources Inc., HS Resources Inc. and Abraxis Petroleum Corp.

The lawsuits have been filed on behalf of Susan L. Bishop; Larry Madsen, special trustee of the H.M. Klaenhammer Revocable Trust; Robert W. Scott of R.W. Scott Investments, LLC; Marilyn Dymond Wagner of Dymond Resources Ltd. Partnership; and all other holders of royalty and overriding royalty rights.

Three similar lawsuits were previously filed in Lincoln County and one has been filed in Natrona County.

Late last year and early this year class-action lawsuits in Lincoln County were settled against two minerals companies. Both settlements were for around $500,000, according to Balzer.

Cross Timber Oil Co. has been ordered to pay back to between 250 and 300 people and Hunt Oil was ordered to pay 200 people.

Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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