In this week's news update, the rig count falls by 28, and a lawsuit seeking millions in restitution is filed against Chesapeake on behalf of 4,000 landowners.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane filed a lawsuit against Oklahoma-based Chesapeake Energy Corp. claiming that the company had landowners sign “deceptive” leases that cheated them out of millions of dollars in royalty checks.

The lawsuit, filed Dec. 9 in Bradford County, Pennsylvania, seeks tens of millions of dollars in restitution for approximately 4,000 landowners in addition to civil penalties.

The lawsuit alleges that Chesapeake practiced a “bait and switch scheme” regarding land rights to drill in the Marcellus Shale. The company is accused of making unauthorized deductions for post-production expenses from royalty checks to Pennsylvania landowners.

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Chesapeake has denied the allegations as “baseless” and plans to contest them in court.

Rig count drops by 28
The U.S. rig count fell by the biggest margin in two months last week in data released by oilfield services company Baker Hughes on Dec. 11.

The Houston-based company says the rig count was down 28 to 709 at the end of last week. The oil rig count declined by 21 to 524 and those exploring for natural gas went down by seven to 185.

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Last year at this time there were 1,893 rigs exploring for oil and natural gas.

Schlumberger donates software to school
Houston-based oilfield services company Schlumberger donated $172 million worth of software to South Dakota’s School of Mines & Technology to strengthen the school’s energy resources initiative.

School officials say the software will be used in courses supporting the new petroleum systems minor and graduate certificate program, other petroleum-related curricula and research.

Related: Pennsylvania May Take Hit in Marcellus Impact Fees

The software will allow students to interpret seismic data, correlate well logs and build reservoir models and maps. They will also help students analyze wells for surveillance and forecast modeling and simulate flow for oil and gas production.

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