Residents of Pawnee, Oklahoma have filed a lawsuit against 27 energy companies, accusing them of operating wastewater injection wells knowing that earthquakes are likely to result.
On a Saturday morning early in September, the town was hit by a magnitude 5.8 earthquake. A month later, a magnitude 5.0 quake struck the neighboring town of Cushing. The suit alleges that in the past few months alone, the area has been racked by more than 52 quakes.
Pawnee is home to approximately 2,200 people, many who have suffered property damage and emotional distress due to the strength and frequency of earthquakes. Additionally, these quakes may reduce the overall value of property in the area. Residents are seeking an unspecified amount of damages in the class-action lawsuit.
Many experts and scientists have put forth that the vast majority of the earthquakes in this area may be linked to the operation of injection wells and the methods of wastewater disposal. As oil and gas are extracted from wells, an enormous amount of wastewater is also produced. Energy companies then inject this water back into the earth, typically under high pressure. While many companies have acknowledged the research showing the potential danger of this practice, drilling operations still continue.
This is not the first suit of its kind to be brought against an energy company in the United States. Companies in neighboring states have faced similar lawsuits aimed at stopping these practices. In fact, parts of Arkansas saw a drastically reduced rate of earthquakes after the state’s Oil and Gas Commission voted to restrict the methods of resource disposal available to energy companies.
Of the 27 companies listed in the Oklahoma lawsuit, only two have currently been identified by name: Eagle Road Oil, LLC and Cummings Oil Company.
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