Cuccinelli's office improperly used funds to advise energy companies

10/15/2013, 2:43 p.m.
Ken Cuccinelli

Virginia's inspector general has released his review of the attorney general’s office and an assistant attorney general's emails to the attorneys of companies extracting methane gas in Southwest Virginia.

“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," said Brian Gottstein, director of communication for the Office of the Attorney General.

“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.”

The campaign of Cuccinelli's opponent in the governor's race, Democrat Terry McAuliffe, said the report confirms what many Virginians have found troubling.

"Ken Cuccinelli's office had stepped over the line and improperly used taxpayer funds to advise out-of-state energy companies trying to avoid paying Southwest Virginia landowners mining royalties that are rightfully theirs," said McAuliffe spokesperson Josh Schwerin. "Ken Cuccinelli, who received over $100,000 in campaign contributions from one of these energy companies, should immediately return the money he received and show that he's willing to put his own agenda aside to do what's best for Virginia."