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Arkansas residents start legal action against fracking companies over earthquakes

August 29, 2013
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<photocredit>SORAPONG CHAIPANYA/iStockphoto/Thinkstock</photocredit>

A group of residents in Greenbrier, Ark., has launched the first lawsuit against fracking companies, which accuses them of causing earthquakes with their operations, Reuters reported. In total, about 40 civil suits related to fracking have been filed since 2009.

According to legal documents submitted to the court, the claimants explained that in 2010 and 2011 the town of Greenbrier experienced more than 1,000 quakes, with the strongest of a magnitude of 4.7. Since Greenbrier is not to located in an area with a history of seismic activity, the occurrence of the tremors triggered research by the University of Memphis and Arkansas Geological Survey, which concluded that a probable cause of the earthquakes was underground injection of fracking wastewater. Results from the study led to the close-down of a number of wells in the area.

RELATED: Industry organization challenges link between fracking and earthquakes

Reuters said that five lawsuits have been filed in federal court by more than a dozen Greenbrier residents against Chesapeake Operating Inc. and BHP Billiton. Both companies have declined to comment on the matter, saying they could not discuss any ongoing litigation. Another company, Clarita Operating LLC, owned one of the wells that was shut down, but Clarita declared bankruptcy in 2011 and is no longer a part of the litigation.

If any of the cases actually go to trial and the companies are found guilty of causing earthquakes, it might cause a wave of further lawsuits, as wastewater injection is not only restricted to fracking but is also used in gas drilling and production of geothermal energy, Reuters said.

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