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Public Justice Warns Oklahoma Fracking Operators over Seismic Activity

Public Justice Warns Oklahoma Fracking Operators over Seismic Activity

Photo via Public Herald on Flickr.

Notice to sue sent to companies with extraction methods linked to frequent earthquakes.

Public Justice and Sierra Club today warned four companies engaged in hydraulic fracturing in Oklahoma that they must modify their practices or face a citizen lawsuit, citing new evidence linking production waste from fracking and oil production with increased and ongoing earthquake activity in and around central Oklahoma.

The frequency and severity of earthquakes in Oklahoma have increased dramatically in recent years. “Since late 2009,” the groups note in their letter, “the rate of magnitude-3 or larger earthquakes in north-central Oklahoma has been nearly 300 times higher than in previous decades.” The letter also notes that “Overlaying the locations of Defendants’ wells onto the places where earthquakes above magnitude 3.5 have been felt shows that earthquakes are occurring in the vicinity of the Defendants’ wells or along fault lines that are close to the wells.” The groups have concluded that the large volume of production waste from fracking and oil production operations that is injected into the ground is causing this increased activity and raises the likelihood of “a devastating quake that could kill large numbers of people and cause massive environmental devastation.”

“Oklahoma is literally being shaken to its core by the operations of these oil and gas companies,” said Paul Bland, executive director of Public Justice. “The link between Oklahoma’s dramatic earthquake activity and the industry’s fracking operations has been established by countless experts, including the Oklahoma Geological Survey, the U.S. Geological Survey and the scientists who have assembled the compelling and conclusive evidence references in our letter today. Most importantly, the impact of this devastating process is felt, nearly every single day, by the citizens of Oklahoma. There is a clear and present danger posed by these irresponsible operations. If the energy companies do not voluntarily take action to stop it, we will take them to court.”

In the letter, Public Justice and the Sierra Club outline ways the energy companies can change their practices in order to curb further activity and damage:

  • Immediately and substantially reduce the amount of Production Waste injected into the ground
  • Reinforce structures that are most vulnerable to large magnitude earthquakes
  • Establish an independent monitoring and prediction center to forecast the amount of waste that can be safely injected while tracking seismic activity to confirm and modify those predictions

The companies have 90 days to respond or face a suit from Public Justice and its allies. Read the full text of the notice letter here