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.
#ajwamood : #USA : 4.3 earthquake recorded in Edmond - Oklahoma on Tuesday caused some damage https://t.co/7b8P17cZbx— شبكة أجواء (@شبكة أجواء)1451490874.0
The plaintiffs are specifically targeting the companies wastewater disposal wells, alleging that the injection of fracking wastewater into these wells “caused or contributed” to earthquakes and constituted an “ultrahazardous activity.” The companies named in the lawsuit are Devon Energy Production, Grayhorse Operating, Marjo Operating Mid-Continent, New Dominion, Northport Production, Pedestal Oil, Rainbo Service, R.C. Taylor Operating, Special Energy, Sundance Energy, TNT Operating and White Operating.
In the lawsuit, the residents focus on two earthquakes of magnitude 4.3 and 4.2, which struck Edmond on Dec. 29, 2015 and Jan. 1, respectively. Citing "reckless disregard for the consequences to others," the plaintiffs argue in the lawsuit that the companies "injected large volumes of drilling waste in disposal wells located near the cities of Edmond and Oklahoma City, in the vicinity of the plaintiffs' properties, under conditions that defendants knew or should have known would result in an increased likelihood that earthquakes or other adverse environmental impacts would occur, thereby unreasonably endangering the health, safety and welfare of persons and property, including plaintiffs and others.
"The use of disposal wells by defendants created conditions which, among other things, are the proximate cause of unnatural and unprecedented earthquakes that continue unabated, increasing in both frequency and magnitude within Oklahoma County and elsewhere in the state of Oklahoma, which have damaged plaintiffs and others and threaten to do so in the future."
The residents have suffered and will continue to suffer "severe and permanent damage to their persons and property,” according to the lawsuit. This damage includes “cracked and broken interior and exterior walls” and “movement of the foundations beneath their dwellings.” The residents also cited “mental and emotional anguish, fear and worry” as a result of the earthquakes.
The plaintiffs are seeking a permanent injunction to stop the use of 16 disposal wells operated by the energy companies. "Mother Earth has spoken, and Oklahoma is in a dangerous, dangerous position," attorney Garvin Isaacs, who represents the Edmond-area homeowners along with David Poarch, told The Oklahoman. "We must address this."
Oklahoma went from two earthquakes a year before 2009 to two a day. The state now has more earthquakes than anywhere else in the world. Just in the past two weeks, Oklahoma experienced at least 82 earthquakes.
The Oklahoma Geological Survey concluded in April 2015 that the injection of wastewater byproducts into deep underground disposal wells from fracking operations has triggered the seismic activity in the state.
Even pro-business Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has admitted that there's a “direct correlation between the increase of earthquakes that we’ve seen in Oklahoma [and] 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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theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels<p>The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the <a href="https://www.oceandecade.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)</a> to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.</p><p>According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019338255#b0245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science Direct</a> reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.</p><p>As recently as Aug. 2020, <a href="https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/esg-investors-slow-make-waves-25tn-ocean-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reuters</a> noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.</p><p>"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.</p><p>Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.</p><p>Current, upward <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/-innovation-blue-economy-2646147405.html" target="_self">shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation</a>, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.</p><p>In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," <a href="https://itrade.gov.il/belgium-english/how-israel-is-becoming-a-port-of-call-for-maritime-innovation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">iTrade</a> reported.</p><p>Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub <a href="https://www.thedockinnovation.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theDOCK</a>. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.</p><p>"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."</p><p>In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.</p><p>Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.</p>
theDOCK team includes (left to right) Michal Hendel-Sufa, Head of Alliances, Noa Schuman, CMO, Nir Gartzman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, and Hannan Carmeli, Co-Founder & Managing Partner. Dudu Koren<p>theDOCK's own portfolio includes companies like Orca AI, which uses an intelligent collision avoidance system to reduce the probability of oil or fuel spills, AiDock, which eliminates the use of paper by automating the customs clearance process, and DockTech, which uses depth "crowdsourcing" data to map riverbeds in real-time and optimize cargo loading, thereby reducing trips and fuel usage while also avoiding groundings.</p><p>"Oceans are a big opportunity primarily because they are just that – big!" theDOCK's Chief Marketing Officer Noa Schuman summarized. "As such, the magnitude of their criticality to the global ecosystem, the magnitude of pollution risk and the steps needed to overcome those challenges – are all huge."</p><p>There is hope that this wave of interest and investment in environmentally-positive maritime technologies will accelerate the blue economy and ESG investing even further, in Israel and beyond.</p>
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