Almost 12 years after a swarm of earthquakes near Prague, including a 5.7 magnitude quake, sparked a class action lawsuit blaming some energy companies, a $5.9 million settlement has been reached with another of the firms.
New Dominion LLC agreed to the settlement which was approved in Lincoln County District court. The Tulsa oil and gas exploration company was one of several firms named in the original lawsuit filed in 2011 following the swarm of earthquakes on November 5, 6 and 8 of that year.
The suit was originally filed by Jennifer Lin Cooper whose home was badly damaged in the large earthquake. In 2018, Spess Oil Company, Equal Energy US, Inc. and Fairfield Oil and Gas Corp. agreed to put $925,000 in a settlement fund but New Dominion was not part of the settlement.
While New Dominion disputed the allegations that its operations caused the swarm of damaging earthquakes, it reached the settlement which was approved in July 2023 by a District Judge.
An advertisement in The Oklahoman newspaper by attorney Scott Poynter, the lawyer who handled the case for the plaintiffs stated, “The settlement resolved claims that New Dominion’s nearby oil and gas wastewater disposal well operations caused these earthquakes” and damaged properties in Lincoln, Payne, Logan, Oklahoma, Cleveland, Pottawatomie, Seminole, Okfuskee and Creek Counties.
The settlement came after an independent mediator was used in November 2022 to mediate the claims. Filings by those whose homes and businesses were damaged in the quakes contended they had developed scientific proof through geophysicists that the seismicity around Prague in November of 2022 “was not an act of God, but instead was inducted by wastewater disposal operations by New Dominion.”
The settlement was reached as the attorneys for those who sued New Dominion indicated in court filings, “While Plaintiffs are resolute in their belief that their claims have substantial lmerit, they also understand that litigation is risky and uncertain.”
Who’s to blame? While the U.S. Geological Survey did not identify specific firms or persons involved, its 2014 study of the Prague earthquakes determined they were “human-induced.”
“This research suggests that the M5.7 quake was the largest human-caused earthquake associated with wastewater injection,” stated the USGS. The agency determined that a “human-induced earthquake can trigger a cascade of earthquakes, including a larger one.”
The USGS pointed to 2011 when there were several earthquakes in Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma, Ohio and Arkansas.
” Many of these earthquakes occurred near waste-water injection wells, and some have been shown to be caused by human activities,” stated the USGS.
The agency declared that the 5.7 magnitude quake that left heavy damage in Prague “occurred near active waste-water disposal wells and was linked in a previously published study to fluid injection in those wells. The earthquakes have not been directly linked to hydrofracturing.”
Now the law firm of Poynter Law group, based in Little Rock, Arkansas, is attempting to notify those who might be eligible to receive part of the $5.9 million settlement. A final approval hearing will be held September 25 at 4 p.m. in Norman before Cleveland County Judge Jeff Virgin.