Attorney Nathan Keever relishes standing up ‘for the little guy’ in oil and gas cases
Grand Junction attorney Nathan Keever is driven by a competitive streak.
It is what helped him win several state titles in master’s swimming events last year and make it into the top 20 nationally the last few years in his age group.
It’s also what has helped him take on big players in western Colorado’s natural gas industry and obtain millions of dollars for royalty owners who were underpaid by companies that leased the rights to develop their minerals.
Keever said he often finds himself outnumbered by attorneys representing energy companies, which hire the best attorneys in the state to represent them. But that only feeds the competitive spirit of an underdog attorney trying to help underdog individuals challenge the royalty accounting practices of powerhouse companies.
“I like standing up for the little guy,” Keever said.
His efforts to do so have paid off for many. After two smaller cases in which companies settled and paid the royalties owed, Keever went to trial in a case in which Joan Savage of Rifle won more than $500,000 in a claim originally brought against Barrett Resources, which later was purchased by Williams Production RMT.
A subsequent suit against Williams by the late William Clough resulted in a jury award of about $4 million.
After that case, Keever said, he got flooded with calls from other royalty owners wanting to sue.
“They knew at that point they weren’t getting the royalties they were owed,” he said.
A subsequent class action lawsuit involving about 1,200 royalty owners in Garfield County resulted in Williams agreeing to pay about $4.7 million under a partial settlement.
The settlement rectified issues such as deductions Williams took for transporting gas, and failures to reimburse for the value of natural gas liquids and for excess amounts withheld for property taxes. Litigation in the case is continuing over a few outstanding issues.
Keever also is representing some 45 royalty owners who opted out of a class-action royalties settlement against EnCana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc. and filed a separate suit against the company.
Sid Lindauer of Parachute, a lead plaintiff in the Williams class action suit, said Keever has helped royalty owners “more than any single individual, I believe.”
“He’s really done an excellent job for us,” Lindauer said.
He said Keever is passionate about the issues, and good not just in litigating but in keeping people informed about their rights and keeping companies honest.
“He’s well-known in the area now for helping to protect people as far as oil and gas leases, making sure things are honest and direct on them,” Lindauer said.
Keever appreciated hearing Lindauer’s sentiments.
“For a lot of these people, their land, including their mineral rights, is their biggest asset. It’s their retirement funds, it’s their kids’ college funds, it’s their inheritance to their children, and so I view it as a huge responsibility to try to protect that for them, the value that’s in their minerals, and their land if they own the surface,” he said.
Keever also works in water law. This attorney who focuses on natural resource issues got his start in law because of his love of the outdoors. After spending much of his youth in San Jose, Calif., he left home at 17 and worked his way through college, where he was an outdoor recreation major. He then worked as a ranger at Channel Islands National Park off Ventura, Calif., where he led tours both on land and in a kayak.
After someone suggested a law degree to him as a way to advance his National Park Service career, he entered law school at the University of Colorado in Boulder, where he discovered a love for litigation and ended up pursuing a legal career outside the Park Service.
Although he misses some of the outdoor elements of ranger work, Keever likes Colorado because so many easily accessible outdoor activities are available to him, such as mountain biking, snowboarding, rafting, kayaking and four-wheeling.
“When I had the opportunity to move out (to Grand Junction), even closer to those opportunities, I took it, and it’s been great. I really love it out here,” he said.
He moved to Grand Junction in 1996 and is a partner with Dufford, Waldeck, Milburn & Krohn.
He said he got into oil and gas law while doing water cases for ranchers who began having increasing problems with oil and gas companies. He deals with a range of oil and gas cases, such as ones involving companies that mistakenly miss their targets in directional drilling and infringe on nearby mineral rights, and issues of groundwater contamination.
He represents a landowner in the area of the Prather spring contamination northwest of Parachute.
Keever has been approached by some energy companies to represent them, but always has said no. Instead, they can count on him staying in Grand Junction and continuing to look out for the interests of those affected by energy development.
Keever said he’s been so constantly busy that he can continue to take cases he believes in, which is important to him.
“It’s been a nice fit. I really like it. I’m not going anywhere. I have plenty of pending cases,” he said.