More than $2.5 million came as part of new legislation addressing Coalbed Methane

The Virginia Gas and Oil Board approved distributing $4.49 million from the state’s escrow account during 2015, the most in a single year. The payments were the first substantial response to years of litigation between property owners and oil and gas companies over who owned the royalties for coalbed methane.

More than $2.5 million of the 2015 disbursements were the direct result of House Bill 2058, new legislation that gave gas owners the right to coalbed methane royalties, reports Herald Courier. Prior to that bill, energy companies claimed they maintained the gas rights because they had coal rights for a given piece of property, the paper reported.

Another $17.5 million in expected payments are currently on hold after the Virginia Gas and Oil Board voted in December to approve requests from gas companies for an extension in time. At the end of December, the escrow account stood at $25.7 million according to the agency.

“We believe this change in legislation will free up a total of $20 million from the escrow account,” board Chairman Butch Lambert said in the statement.

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