Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Erin Brockovich, Oklahoma Tribe Takes On Fracking Companies Over Induced Earthquakes

Energy
Erin Brockovich, Oklahoma Tribe Takes On Fracking Companies Over Induced Earthquakes
A 5.8-magnitude earthquake that rattled Pawnee, Oklahoma in September 2016 was classified as largest in state history. USGS

Environmental activist Erin Brockovich is helping Oklahoma's Pawnee Nation take on several fracking companies in a lawsuit alleging that damages to its tribal buildings and reservation property was the result of man-made, or induced, earthquakes.

National Geographic reports that the Native American tribe has retained the law firm Weitz & Luxenberg, with the aid of Brockovich, to sue Eagle Road Oil LLC, Cummings Oil Company, and 25 other oil and gas companies.


In September 2016, a magnitude 5.8 earthquake—the state's largest ever recorded—struck near the town of Pawnee. The tribe alleges that wastewater injected into wells operated by the defendants caused the record-breaking quake and is seeking damages to real and personal property, market value losses, as well as punitive damages.

The lawsuit accuses the defendants of "knowingly causing" the tremors and that their actions "constitute wanton or reckless disregard for public or private safety."

The case will be heard in tribal court. "The Nation wanted this to be an assertion of their sovereignty," Curt Marshall, counsel for Weitz & Luxenberg representing the Pawnee, told National Geographic. "After all, they are a nation, a sovereign nation: they have jurisdiction, even over non-Indians, on their land."

A growing body of research has linked Oklahoma's alarming spate of earthquakes to wastewater disposal deep underground. These fluids can cause pressure changes to faults and make them more likely to move. Scientists have dubbed this phenomenon as "induced earthquakes" as they are triggered by human activities as opposed to "natural" seismicity.

The Midwestern state is not previously known for seismic activity. Before 2009, Oklahoma felt two earthquakes per year. But in 2014, the numbers jumped to about 2,500 in 2014, 4,000 in 2015 and 2,500 in 2016.

The USGS said that the decline in 2016 quakes could be due to injection restrictions implemented by the state officials.

However, even if there were fewer tremors last year, Oklahoma felt more 4.0+ quakes in 2016 than in any other year. Another major quake struck the state in November—a 5.0 near Cushing, one of the largest oil hubs in the world.

Earlier this year, Brockovich and lawyers from Weitz & Luxenberg traveled to the state to speak with residents about the earthquake swarm.

"The communities definitely [are] feeling frustrated and voiceless and helpless and not sure where to turn" Brockovich said after a Pawnee meeting in January.

Brockovich, who currently lives in Los Angeles, recounted to National Geographic about her summers in Oklahoma as a child.

"The only thing I'd worry about growing up there was tornadoes," Brockovich said. "Now I'd be afraid not of a tornado, but an earthquake? That's just bizarre."

It's difficult, she added, "to go back to Oklahoma, to see how on edge [the Pawnee people] are. The question they keep asking is, 'When will it end?'"

Milkyway from Segara Anak - Rinjani Mountain. Mount Rinjani or Gunung Rinjani is an active volcano in Indonesia on the island of Lombok. It rises to 12,224 ft, making it the second highest volcano in Indonesia. On the top of the volcano is a 3.7 by 5.3 mi caldera, which is filled partially by the crater lake known as Segara Anak or Anak Laut (Child of the Sea) due to blue color of water lake as Laut (Sea). This lake is approximately 6,600 ft above sea level and estimated to be about 660 ft deep; the caldera also contains hot springs. Sasak tribe and Hindu people assume the lake and the mount are sacred and some religion activities are occasionally done in the two areas. Abdul Azis / Moment / Getty Images

By Dirk Lorenzen

2021 begins as a year of Mars. Although our red planetary neighbor isn't as prominent as it was last autumn, it is still noticeable with its characteristic reddish color in the evening sky until the end of April. In early March, Mars shines close to the star cluster Pleiades in the constellation Taurus.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

By Michael Svoboda, Ph.D.

Despite a journey to this moment even more treacherous than expected, Americans now have a fresh opportunity to act, decisively, on climate change.

The authors of the many new books released in just the past few months (or scheduled to be published soon) seem to have anticipated this pivotal moment.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Marsh Creek in north-central California is the site of restoration project that will increase residents' access to their river. Amy Merrill

By Katy Neusteter

The Biden-Harris transition team identified COVID-19, economic recovery, racial equity and climate change as its top priorities. Rivers are the through-line linking all of them. The fact is, healthy rivers can no longer be separated into the "nice-to-have" column of environmental progress. Rivers and streams provide more than 60 percent of our drinking water — and a clear path toward public health, a strong economy, a more just society and greater resilience to the impacts of the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less
A Brood X cicada in 2004. Pmjacoby / CC BY-SA 3.0

Fifteen states are in for an unusually noisy spring.

Read More Show Less
A creative depiction of bigfoot in a forest. Nisian Hughes / Stone / Getty Images

Deep in the woods, a hairy, ape-like man is said to be living a quiet and secluded life. While some deny the creature's existence, others spend their lives trying to prove it.

Read More Show Less