Two Oklahoma oil and gas companies are targeted in a new tribal court lawsuit filed Friday by the Pawnee Nation alleging liability over the 5.8 magnitude earthquake that resulted in significant damage to tribal structures, according to a news report in The Tulsa World.
Tulsa-based Eagle Road Oil LLC and Oklahoma City-based Cummings Oil Co. are specifically named as two of 27 defendants in the action filed in tribal court. Both companies were operating at least one wastewater injection well less than 10 miles from the epicenter of the September 3 earthquake. The remaining 25 defendants are identified as John Does as the tribe develops its case.
The Pawnee Nation alleges that wastewater injection wells caused the earthquake that impaired several tribal buildings and 40 homes. Local broadcasting stations filmed the damage, including photos of cracked interior walls, bowed ceilings and exterior sandstone that became dislodged from the earthquake’s sudden jolts.
Governor Mary Fallin issued a state of emergency for Pawnee County immediately following the earthquake, which was felt in multiple states.
The Pawnee Nation was forced to relocate some offices due to the severe damage sustained by the quake.
Pawnee Nation members will hear the case in tribal court, where it is the first earthquake-related litigation of its kind. If an appeal were filed in a jury decision, it could be heard by a five-member tribal Supreme Court, and that decision would be final, according to The Tulsa World report.
“We are a sovereign nation and we have the rule of law here,” said Andrew Knife Chief, the Pawnee Nation’s Chief Executive Director. “We’re using our tribal laws, our tribal processes, to hold these guys accountable.”