The state says Chesapeake Energy signed lease agreements with eight landowners, assuring them that mortgages on the property would not be a problem. The options shut out competitors from buying leases. The allegations say Chesapeake then used the mortgages as a pretext to cancel the contracts.
Chesapeake is the nation’s second-largest producer of natural gas. In a statement, the company says the charges are “without merit,” and will fight them in court.
Chesapeake is also facing a separate criminal lawsuit in Michigan. It alleges the company was part of a collusion scheme to keep down the cost of leases up for auction. The other company that was charged has pleaded no contest.