Energy company reaches $25M settlement with state


LANSING — An energy company has pleaded no contest to attempted anti-trust violations and agreed to pay $25 million to settle claims that it conspired to keep prices down during an auction for oil and gas leases, state officials announced.

Chesapeake Energy made the plea on Friday.

"This is a victory for Michigan taxpayers and a victory for all the Michigan land owners who took deep hits to their pocketbooks following the October 2010 private land auction," Attorney General Bill Schuette said. "This settlement will achieve recovery for every one of the more than 700 affected victims who come forward and make a valid claim."

The per-acre cost of leases had dropped to $40 from $1,510.

In addition to the $25 million, Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy will pay $5 million to the state. Encana Oil and Gas USA agreed last year to pay $5 million.

Separately, Chesapeake pleaded no contest to two misdemeanors in northern Michigan's Cheboygan County. The case will be dismissed next year if Chesapeake follows the settlement.

"We are pleased to . . . move past these legacy issues inherited from past management," company spokesman Gordon Pennoyer said. "The current management team is focused on delivering top-quartile performance and driving shareholder returns."

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