Arkansas families sue oil-and-gas operators over earthquakes

02/17/2014 1:34 PM

02/17/2014 1:35 PM

Fourteen families in central Arkansas have filed a lawsuit in connection with a series of earthquakes that prompted the state in 2011 to ban the use of four injection wells in a large area mostly north of Conway.

The lawsuit against Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Operating and BHP Billiton Petroleum of Australia alleges that their natural gas disposal wells resulted in thousands of earthquakes in Arkansas in 2010 and 2011, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

The lawsuit contends that the disposal wells, which get rid of drilling fluids and wastewater by pushing the liquids back into the earth at high pressure, “caused thousands of earthquakes in mini-clusters and swarms in central Arkansas in 2010 and 2011.”

BHP, which bought Chesapeake’s Arkansas assets in March 2011, did not immediately return a phone call and email from The Associated Press seeking comment. The company also did not respond to requests for comment from the newspaper.

“From about July 2010 through August 2011, well over [1,000] quakes of a minimum magnitude of 1.0 have occurred in the area,” the lawsuit says. “Two earthquakes registered a magnitude of 4.0 and 4.7. Over 30 earthquakes registered a magnitude of 3.0 or above.”

In July 2011, the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission voted to ban use of wells in a 1,150-square-mile area mostly north of Conway because of the earthquakes.

The Democrat-Gazette reported in July 2011 that the quakes in Faulkner County caused no injuries or widespread destruction. But cracked walls were reported in several homes, and one quake caused a wall to fall at a mechanic’s shop in Leslie, in Searcy County.

Separately, seismologists with the Oklahoma Geological Survey said that state recorded 222 earthquakes with magnitudes of 2.5 or greater last year, far more than the 64 recorded in 2012.

And so far this year, Oklahoma has recorded 63 earthquakes at 2.5 magnitude or greater, according to The Oklahoman, not including several earthquakes that struck Logan County late Sunday and early Monday.

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