Efforts by two environmentalists to blame oil and gas exploration in the Flint Hills of Kansas for causing earthquakes have led to them being accused of practicing law without a license. And both contend it’s retaliation by the Kansas Corporation Commission where they have appeared in their fight against wastewater disposal wells.
The Topeka Capital Journal reports Scott Yeargain and journalist Cindy Hoedel have been notified by the Kansas attorney general’s office they will be the target of a consumer-protection inquiry. If they’re found guilty, they could be fined $1,000 and jailed for six months.
The allegation arose from their efforts before the Kansas Corporation Commission to blame wastewater disposal wells for a recent surge in earthquakes in the region northeast of Wichita. Both took part in KCC hearings regarding the oversight of the wells and requests for permits for new drilling.
The allegation was made by Dustin Kirk who was the KCC’s deputy general counsel.
“This is retaliation. I think they’re irritated at me,” said Yeargain, who lives outside Ottawa and serves on a regional advisory committee for the Marais des Cygnes watershed. “Typically, I do homework and share information with others. I don’t represent them. There is no contractual relationship. I’m not an attorney and don’t aspire to be one.”
In October and December 2017, Yeargain filed protests with the KCC about proposed injection wells in Franklin County. In one instance, an oil company withdrew its application. He turned his focus to a proposed injection project 6 miles from his home in March. During a recent procedural hearing, Kirk asked Yeargain if he was an attorney. His answer: “No.”
Yeargain, a retired community college philosophy professor convinced that injection wells pose a hazard to surface and underground water supplies, said a representative of Attorney General Derek Schmidt informed him last month about his alleged unauthorized practice of law. No complaint document was attached to that email, however, and attempts by Yeargain to obtain a copy have failed, he said.
Jennifer Montgomery, spokeswoman for the attorney general, confirmed Tuesday the KCC referral related to the purported illegal practice of law. The attorney general’s office sent identical notification letters July 12 to Yeargain and Hoedel.