Two Lawsuits Relating to Induced Seismicity Filed in Oklahoma
Two lawsuits recently filed in courts in Oklahoma allege claims relating to induced seismicity following a September 8, 2016 earthquake, which measured magnitude 5.8 and had an epicenter approximately 8 miles northwest of Pawnee, Oklahoma. That quake was the largest reported in Oklahoma since seismic record-keeping began.
The first case, filed in Oklahoma state court on November 17, is a putative class action brought by an Oklahoma resident against 27 oil and gas companies that have engaged in injection well operations near Pawnee, 25 of which are unnamed in the class action petition. The petition generally alleges that defendants’ disposal of fracking wastewater in injection wells caused dozens of earthquakes near Pawnee from September through November 2016 (including the magnitude 5.8 earthquake on September 3) and asserts claims of absolute liability for ultrahazardous activities, negligence, private nuisance, and trespass. The petition seeks damages for physical damage to real and personal property, market value losses to real property, and punitive damages, and alleges that the defendants are jointly and severally liable for such damages. Read the Class Action Petition in James Adams et al. v. Eagle Road Oil LLC et al., case number CJ201678, in the District Court of Pawnee County, Oklahoma
The second case, brought by the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma (the “Pawnee Nation”) in federal court, involves claims against the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Land Management, and Sally Jewell as Secretary of the Interior. Specifically, the complaint alleges that defendants’ approval of various oil and gas leases and drilling permits on Pawnee land failed to comply with several federal laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”), the National Historic Preservation Act, and the American Indian Agricultural Resource Management Act of 1993. The complaint links these failures to various impacts on Pawnee land that have occurred as a result of oil and gas development, including earthquakes allegedly caused by hydraulic fracturing operations. Like the petition in Eagle Road discussed above, the Pawnee Nation’s complaint makes specific reference to the magnitude 5.8 earthquake that occurred on September 3. Among the myriad of violations alleged in the complaint is a claim that environmental assessments prepared to comply with NEPA in association with the issuance of drilling permits were deficient for failing to consider earthquakes as an “indirect impact.” The complaint asks the court to set aside 17 leases approved in 2013, as well as at least 10 related permits to drill and associated sundry notices, and to enjoin the defendants from approving any other activities on the relevant leases until defendants have complied with all federal laws. Read the complaint in Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma et al. v. Jewell et al., case number 4:16cv00697, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma