Earthquakes Lawsuit Against Oklahoma Energy Companies Dismissed

April 17, 2017

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit against three oil and gas companies over Oklahoma’s ongoing earthquakes.

The lawsuit, filed last year on behalf of Sierra Club Oklahoma, asked for a reduction of production waste from Devon Energy Corp., Chesapeake Energy Corp. and New Dominion LLC, The Oklahoman reported.

The environmental group wanted an independent earthquake monitoring and prediction center to analyze the companies’ wastewater volumes and connections to induced seismicity.

But Judge Stephen P. Friot ruled that such decisions were best left to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, not the court. Friot said the state agency was better equipped, with help if needed from researchers and the U.S. Geological Survey, to determine the “highly complex and technical issue” of how much disposed wastewater is acceptable to avoid seismic activity.

The judge noted that commission actions affected about 700 Arbuckle disposal wells and reduced total disposed wastewater by about 800,000 barrels a day from 2014 levels.

“This is one situation in which fast, effective administrative action will outdo the judicial process every time,” Friot said.

Sierra Club Oklahoma Director Johnson Bridgwater said Oklahoma’s actions to address the earthquakes haven’t gone far enough.

“The bottom line is that the only way to truly protect Oklahomans is with a moratorium for the earthquake-prone area, not a series of reduction orders,” Bridgwater said.

The three companies that are defendants in the lawsuit were responsible for about two-thirds of the wastewater injected in 2014. They maintain that any injunction against them wouldn’t cover other operators who might also be contributing to induced seismicity.