By TONI ELLINGTON
The issuance of a recent report from the U.S. Geological Survey, which found that earthquakes in the central United States were caused by fracking, may provide a basis for more lawsuits against oil and gas companies. U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist William L. Ellsworth’s July 2013 report concluded that several large earthquakes were caused by the wastewater injection process used in some hydraulic fracturing or fracking operations. One such earthquake in central Oklahoma destroyed homes and injured two people.
Oklahoma has experienced a recent increase in earthquake activity in recent years. Between January and November 2013, for example, 238 earthquakes were reported in Oklahoma, with over 100 registering over 3.0 on the Richter scale. In contrast, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, only 3 earthquakes registering over 3.0 occurred between 1991 and 2008. In Texas, the Texas Railroad Commission hired a seismologist after a series of earthquake in Parker and Tarrant Counties in north Texas. Public hearings were also scheduled for residents in those counties.
In Arkansas, landowners filed multiple individual and class actions lawsuits claiming that injection wells drilled for the disposal of fracking wastewater have cause an increase in earthquakes. The lead case, Stephen Hearn, et al. v. BHP Billiton Petroleum (Fayetteville) LLC, et al., No. 4:11-cv-00474, was consolidated with cases brought by other plaintiffs against BHP Billiton Petroleum (Fayetteville) LLC, Chesapeake Operating, Inc., and Deep Six Water Disposal Services, LLC. The companies have settled with some plaintiffs. Other claims have been consolidated with cases 4:11-cv-00475-JLH and 4:11-cv-00477-JLH and are pending in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, Western Division.
To access the U.S. Geological Survey article, see the July 12, 2013 edition of “Science,” Vol. 341, no. 6142. For more information, or for assistance with your oil and gas related litigation or matters, contact Toni Ellington at (504) 599-8500.