Sierra Club files federal lawsuit regarding Oklahoma earthquakes, disposal wells

The Sierra Club has filed a lawsuit in US District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma against Chesapeake Operating LLC, Devon Energy Production Co. LP, and New Dominion LLC, saying injection wells have contributed to induced seismicity in Oklahoma and southern Kansas.

“Neither the [US Environmental Protection Agency] nor the state of Oklahoma have commenced or are diligently prosecuting a civil or criminal action in a state or federal court to abate the imminent and substantial endangerment,” the lawsuit said.

The Sierra Club requested that a judge order the three companies to “reduce, immediately and substantially, the amounts of production waste they are injecting into the ground.” The area involved is the Arbuckle formation.

In addition, the lawsuit requested that a federal judge declare the practice of injecting production waste as a public health danger.

The Sierra Club also sought a court-ordered independent earthquake monitoring and prediction center. Because a reduction in injection volumes would take time to result in reduced risk, the Sierra Club’s lawsuit also asked that the oil companies be ordered to reinforce “vulnerable structures” that could be impacted by large magnitude quakes.

“In recent years, it has been established that the injection of production wastes into the ground through high-rate disposal wells causes earthquakes,” the lawsuit said. “After much local controversy, the Oklahoma Geological Survey determined in the spring of 2015 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.’”

Series of lawsuits filed

The Sierra Club joined a list of others who have filed lawsuits against oil companies regarding Oklahoma earthquakes (OGJ Online, Feb. 2, 2016).

Separately, Sandridge Exploration & Production LLC was named in a lawsuit filed by two homeowners from Guthrie and Choctaw. The lawsuit was filed in January in Oklahoma State District Court in Logan County. It also named Chesapeake Operating, New Dominion, and Devon Energy Production.

The residents said their real estate property suffered damages from earthquakes, which they blamed on injection well operations. In a class-action lawsuit, they asked for compensatory and punitive damages and a jury trial.

A different lawsuit was filed by several individuals in Oklahoma State District Court in Oklahoma County naming numerous companies.

Contact Paula Dittrick at

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