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Assistant attorney general went too far with energy company counseling, says inspector general

11:36 AM, Oct 15, 2013   |    comments
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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - A report by the state inspector general concludes an assistant attorney general improperly counseled two energy companies, but that she did so without her superior's knowledge.

The report issued Tuesday found that the assistant attorney general provided litigation strategy to the companies being sued by southwest Virginia landowners. It found no evidence her bosses either instructed or supported her actions.

In a statement,* Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said the report proves what he has said from the beginning - that he had no prior knowledge of the emails.

A Cuccinelli spokesman says he has taken steps to "ensure this doesn't happen again."

The revelation has been an embarrassment for Cuccinelli, the Republican candidate for governor whose campaign received more than $100,000 from CONSOL Energy, the parent company of CNX.

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The following statement is from Brian Gottstein, director of communication for the Office of the Attorney General:

"The inspector general's report proves what we have said from the beginning: Attorney General Cuccinelli had no prior knowledge of the content of these emails and he did not authorize them.

"The attorney general has, however, taken steps to ensure this doesn't happen again. Ms. Pigeon was told to cease any communications with the gas companies' attorneys, and she will no longer be monitoring the cases for further constitutional challenges to the Virginia Gas and Oil Act;* instead, a litigation specialist in the Richmond office will handle that.

"The innuendo and outright accusations by some that the attorney general was working against landowners have been proven to be patently false. Attorney General Cuccinelli's involvement in these cases has always been to protect the rights of Southwest Virginia property owners by defending in court the law that ensures they get paid royalties on the methane taken from the land. If Attorney General Cuccinelli does not defend the law and it is struck down, gas companies will only have to pay royalties to the landowner on whose land the well is located, even though the pocket of methane may extend under several neighbors' properties. If Attorney General Cuccinelli does not defend the law and it is struck down, it would create a situation similar to 20 families living around a lake, and the first family that puts a pump in the lake gets to take all the water."

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