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27 Energy Companies Sued After Oklahoma’s Largest Earthquake

Max Kellogg | Legal Staff Writer

Residents in Pawnee County, Oklahoma, filed a class-action lawsuit against 27 oil and gas companies, accusing the companies of triggering destructive, man-made earthquakes by the process in which they disposed of fracking wastewater. The companies mainly disposed of the waste fluids generated from fracking by injecting them back into the earth under extreme pressure into waste disposal or injection wells. The plaintiffs contend that the introduction of such contaminants into the natural environment caused an adverse change that resulted in unnatural seismic activity.

On September 3, 2016, a magnitude 5.8 earthquake shook one town in Pawnee County, which had around 2,200 residents. According to the lawsuit filed on Thursday, November 17, 2016, 52 more earthquakes have hit since. “In recent years, thousands of earthquakes have occurred in Oklahoma. In fact, Oklahoma is the most seismically active state in the continental United States. Scientists have tied these earthquakes to the disposal of wastewater from fracking operations,” says the complaint. “In fact, the number of earthquakes in Oklahoma has increased more than 300-fold, from a maximum of 167 before 2009 to 5,838 in 2015.”

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According to the plaintiffs, as the number of earthquakes have increased, so has the severity. An attorney for plaintiffs commented, “we have clients who don’t allow their children to go upstairs because they’re afraid the roof will fall in on them…there’s a lot of fear; when is the next big one?”

Plaintiffs are alleging counts of absolute liability, negligence, private nuisance, trespass, and damages due to property damage and emotional distress.

This case is Adams et al. v. Eagle Road Oil LLC, et al., Case No. CJ-2016-78, in the District Court of Pawnee County, Oklahoma.

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