Oklahoma Residents Sue 12 ‘Reckless’ Fracking Companies for Earthquake Damage
Oklahoma has seen a dramatic uptick in earthquakes in recent years, and some residents refuse to sit idly by. On Monday, 14 residents of Edmond, Oklahoma filed a lawsuit against 12 energy companies, claiming their fracking operations contributed to a string of earthquakes that hit central Oklahoma in recent weeks.
https://twitter.com/ajwamood/status/682228289902108672 disposal wells.” However, Fallin has maintained a nuanced stance on fracking, as Oklahoma is one of the top natural gas-producing states in the country, and the industry provides a significant number of jobs in the state.
“We want to do it wisely without harming the economic activity we certainly enjoy and the revenue, quite frankly, we certainly enjoy,” Fallin said at a water and energy event in September 2015. “The council has worked very hard to ensure the energy sector, state agencies, environmentalists and academia are all talking and sharing that data and we have a scientific-based approach to reducing seismicity in our state.”
And, to its credit, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, which regulates the state’s oil and gas industry, has taken action to grapple with the near-constant earthquakes that have been plaguing the state. It has forced changes to more than 500 disposal wells around the state, including the shutdown of wells around the city of Cushing, which holds one of the largest crude oil storage facilities in the world. But with 3,500 disposal wells in operation, these regulations only apply to a fraction of existing wells.
The milquetoast response from state regulators has led Oklahoma residents, including the plaintiffs who filed suit on Monday, to take action into their own hands. At least two lawsuits were filed, according to the Oklahoman, after the state was hit with its largest earthquake to date, a 5.6-magnitude that hit the Prague area in 2011.
One of those suits, Ladra v. New Dominion, LLC, was initially dismissed by a lower court judge, who said such disputes should be handled by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. The plaintiff, Prague resident Sandra Ladra, appealed the decision to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, which ruled in July 2015 that the lawsuit could proceed in district court. The ruling helped clear the way for citizens to sue the oil and gas companies responsible for the wells. Ladra’s case is still pending.
In October 2015, the Oklahoma Sierra Club and Washington-based Public Justice Foundation sent letters to four Oklahoma energy companies warning them of a lawsuit. Public Justice launched a petition, which has gathered more than 11,000 signatures that demands Oklahoma’s oil and gas companies take “immediate steps to curb their impact on the state’s people and environment.” The group told The Oklahoman on Monday that it still plans to file suit.
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