Weitz & Luxenberg, in partnership with Poynter Law Group, today announced it has filed a class action petition against four energy companies operating in Oklahoma who have refused to end fracking operations that are contributing to increased earthquakes throughout the state. The law firm will represent the homeowners and businesses that have suffered from these human-induced earthquakes.
The lawsuit was filed by the law firm following the sharp increase in the number and magnitude of earthquakes experienced by residents in Oklahoma, often causing structural or other damage to their homes. The defendants named in the suit are Sandridge Exploration and Production, New Dominion, Chesapeake Operating and Devon Energy Production Company.
”Despite compelling evidence, these companies continue to inject wastewater into wells at an alarming rate, all the while knowing that their activities are jeopardizing residents’ homes and livelihoods. They must compensate the many thousands of Oklahomans who not only worry about the value of their homes but also their personal safety should one of the earthquakes cause even greater harm, including the loss of life,” said Robin Greenwald, head of W&L’s Environmental, Toxic Tort & Consumer Protection litigation unit. ”Just last week, the state was rocked by two of the largest earthquakes seen in recent years, which followed a series of smaller earthquakes in the week prior. This lawsuit seeks redress for the damage these earthquakes and those before them have caused.”
The complaint, filed in the District Court of Logan County in the State of Oklahoma, alleges that the companies are liable to the plaintiffs and the class for private nuisance, ultra-hazardous activities, negligence, and trespass in their actions that have led to the harm and suffering of Oklahoma residents.
”These companies have acted with reckless abandon in their drilling practices and it is time they be held accountable for the damage they have caused and continue to cause,” said Curt Marshall, an attorney in the firm’s Environmental, Toxic Tort & Consumer Protection litigation unit.
Since 2009, Oklahoma has seen a steady rise in both the frequency and intensity of seismic activity. These earthquakes have been linked to the growing volume of production waste injected into the ground by fracking companies. Records have shown that in 2009, prior to increased fracking activity, Oklahoma recorded a maximum of 195 earthquakes in any given year. But by 2014, seismologists recorded over 5,000 earthquakes, and officials predict Oklahoma could face over 6,000 earthquakes in the coming year alone.
Meanwhile, the total volume of production waste injected into ground wells has grown from 2 billion barrels in 2009 to over 12 billion barrels in 2014.
In 2015, the Oklahoma Geological Survey determined that ”the majority of recent earthquakes in central and north-central Oklahoma are very likely triggered by the injection of produced water in disposal wells” and that ”seismologists have documented the relationship between wastewater disposal and triggered seismic activity.” The United States Geological Survey, a federal agency, has fully supported this evidence.
Aside from seeking compensatory and punitive damages for plaintiffs, W&L is asking the companies to strengthen structures that could be damaged or destroyed by large earthquakes. It is also seeking to establish an independent earthquake monitoring and prediction center to analyze and predict the connection between increased seismic activity and fracking.