Arkansas Families Blame Fracking Operations for Earthquakes

In a new lawsuit, two families blame fracking operations for thousands of earthquakes that damaged property in central Arkansas in 2010 and 2011. On February 12, 2014, Daryl and Nicole Davis and Joel and Terri Van Pelt filed suit in the USDC for the Eastern District of Arkansas, Western Division, against Chesapeake Operating Inc. and BHP Billiton Petroleum, claiming the defendants’ fracking operations “caused thousands of earthquakes in mini-clusters and swarms in central Arkansas in 2010 and 2011.” The plaintiffs claim their homes and property were damaged as

a direct and proximate consequence of defendants’ oil and gas operations in Arkansas, and more specifically, their disposal of the wastewater generated during the process of extracting natural gas from the Fayetteville Shale by injecting it back into the earth in disposal wells.

According to the complaint, “scientists have known for half a century that disposal well operations will cause earthquakes. In fact, since the late 1960s, scientists studying whether earthquakes and seismic activities can be induced by certain human actions have accepted that induced seismic activity can and does occur.” The plaintiffs allege that the defendants continued to use disposal wells despite “knowing that disposal well operations can and do induce seismic activity.” The complaint incorporates a graph, prepared by the Arkansas Geological Survey, which purportedly “shows that Arkansas experienced almost as many earthquakes in years following disposal well activity than it did in the previous twenty years collectively.”

The complaint claims that hundreds of earthquakes hit central Arkansas in October of 2010, some of which were of substantial magnitude, and that these earthquakes damaged the plaintiffs’ property and diminished its value. In addition to property damage, the plaintiff’s claim “they have suffered emotional distress and increased anxiety and worry of additional and possibly more severe earthquakes that could further damage their property or injure themselves or a family member in their home” and they seek punitive damages for public and private nuisance, absolute liability, trespass, negligence, deceptive trade practices, outrage and emotional distress.

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