Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Lawsuits Accuse Fracking Companies of Triggering Oklahoma's Earthquake Surge

The recent series of strong quakes have spiked public concern and accusations that industry is negligent in disposing of wastewater deep underground.

Devon Energy, owner of this pumpjack near Guthrie, Okla., is among those accused of negligence related to earthquakes. (Credit: Reuters) Click to Enlarge.
Two lawsuits in Oklahoma accuse more than a dozen oil and gas companies of triggering recent earthquakes by disposing of their drilling waste in deep wells.

The lawsuits filed last week come on the heels of heightened earthquake activity in Oklahoma, where more than 130 this month have registered magnitude 2.5 or higher on the Richter Scale.  These events have caused property damage, knocked out the local power supply, and shaken people's faith in the state government's ability to control the situation.

"It's pretty intense right now," said Jeremy Boak, a geologist at the Oklahoma Geological Survey. He explained that the state has already experienced seven earthquakes of at least magnitude 4.0 in the past three weeks—about one-quarter the total of such quakes in 2015.

Responding to the growing concern about risk to people and property—and the possibility of an even bigger earthquake on the way—both Republican and Democratic state representatives recently held public forums and said new legislation is needed on this issue.

Energy regulators at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) told InsideClimate News that they share the public's concern.

"Many of us are among the concerned citizens, as we live in earthquake areas and have seen and felt first hand what's happening to our homes," OCC spokesman Matt Skinner wrote in an email.

Perhaps the biggest indication of public frustration and anxiety, however, is the growing number of lawsuits.  Four have been filed on the issue in Oklahoma, all targeting energy companies.  None of the cases have yet reached the hearing stage.

Lawyers say another lawsuit will be filed by the end of the month, on behalf of the Sierra Club.  It accuses four energy companies of violating the federal waste management rule called the Resource and Recovery Act, said Scott Poynter, a lawyer involved in that case and two of the state lawsuits.

Read more at Lawsuits Accuse Fracking Companies of Triggering Oklahoma's Earthquake Surge

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