More than 90 days after warning three energy companies, the Sierra Club Oklahoma has filed federal suit blaming Devon Energy, Chesapeake Operating and New Dominion for earthquakes in central and northern Oklahoma.
The suit was filed in Oklahoma City federal court and accuses the three of violating the Resource, Recovery and Conservation Act.
“Other lawsuits are already occurring and looking for damages,” explained Richard Webster, an attorney with Public Justice in Washington, D.C. who filed the suit on behalf of the Sierra Club. “That isn’t what we’re looking for here. Under RRCA, we look for what’s called injunctive relief and we look for the companies to take action to eliminate the risk.”
It was in December 2015 when the Sierra Club notified the three energy firms they would be sued if they did not take actions to either reduce operations of their wastewater disposal wells or shut down some of them in regions where there have been high numbers of earthquakes.
“The science laid out in our case is clear,” said Paul Bland, executive director of Public Justice. “Oklahoma may be on the verge of experiencing a strong and potentially catastrophic earthquake. This lawsuit which we filed after the three companies named in our suit refused to take steps of their own, is an action brought by residents of Oklahoma in an attempt to protect their property, their communities and their lives.”
The filing of the lawsuit comes just days after the 5.1 magnitude quake near Fairview where many of the disposal wells are operated by the companies.
“The situation is rapidly heading toward one of a genuine serious emergency,” said Bland in an interview with OK Energy Today. Webster agreed and took note of how stronger earthquakes around Cushing, site of the largest oil storage system in the world, could cause perhaps the world’s largest oil spill.
“What we’re asking for is not to pose devastating risk to the state,” he stated. “A major event would cause far more damage and far more loss than what we’re asking for in this lawsuit.”
The suit seeks no money but rather a judge’s order to force the three energy firms to reduce operations of their disposal wells. Both Bland and Webster said they have been successful in previous lawsuits filed under the federal Conservation Act and feel confident they’ll win this one too.
Listen to Jerry Bohnen’s interview of Bland and Webster. For listening purposes, Webster is the attorney with the British accent.