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Wednesday, May 29, 2024 | Back issues
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Fracking Blamed for ‘Thousands of Quakes’

LITTLE ROCK (CN) - Fracking by Chesapeake oil and Billiton Petroleum caused "thousands of earthquakes" that damaged homes and caused the state's largest earthquake in the past 35 years, two Central Arkansas families claim in court.

Daryl and Nicole Davis and Joel and Terri Van Pelt sued Chesapeake Operating Inc. and BHP Billiton Petroleum in Federal Court, claiming their fracking "caused thousands of earthquakes in mini-clusters and swarms in central Arkansas in 2010 and 2011."

Both families live in Greenbrier, about 40 miles north of Little Rock.

They 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."

This is one of dozens of lawsuits filed across the country, blaming fracking for earthquake-damaged homes. Some have claimed that fracking caused tapwater to burn.

Fracking "requires drillers to inject pressurized water, sand, and other chemicals to create fractures deep into the ground," the Davises and Van Pelts say in their complaint.

"The fracking process results in wastewater that has to be disposed of, primarily because it is contaminated with salt and other minerals.

"Although some of this wastewater is recycled and reused, for the most part, it is disposed of by injecting it back into the ground into other wells commonly referred to as 'wastewater disposal injection wells,' 'disposal wells' or 'injection wells.'"

Chesapeake owned and operated injection wells throughout Faulkner County, near Greenbrier, the families claim.

They claim that "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."

A graph prepared by the Arkansas Geological Survey, on page 7 of the complaint, "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 states.

"In what the USGS tagged as the 'Arkansas Earthquake Swam of October 2010,' hundreds of earthquakes hit central Arkansas in October 2010 alone.

"Some of the earthquakes were of substantial magnitude. For example, earthquakes of 4.0 and 3.8 in magnitude were centered in the Guy/Greenbrier area on October 11th and October 15th. These two big earthquakes were felt widely across Arkansas."

The Davis' home is less than a mile from the center of the 4.7 earthquake that occurred on Feb. 28, 2011, according to the complaint. The Van Pelt's home is approximately 2.3 miles from the epicenter of that quake.

Both families say their homes suffered physical damage and loss of market value.

They claim that their "lives have also been damaged by defendants' disposal well operations and resulting earthquakes in that 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."

They say Chesapeake and Billiton's conduct "while knowing that disposal well operations can and do induce seismic activity is extreme, outrageous, and intolerable."

They seek punitive damages for public and private nuisance, absolute liability, trespass, negligence, deceptive trade practices, outrage and emotional distress.

They are represented by Corey D. McGaha with Emerson Poynter, of Houston.

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