Arkansas Families File Lawsuit Over Earthquakes

February 18, 2014

Fourteen families in central Arkansas have filed a lawsuit in connection with a series of earthquakes in Faulkner County that prompted the state in 2011 to ban the use of four natural-gas drilling disposal wells in a large area mostly north of Conway.

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

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

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

Thirteen of the 14 plaintiffs live in Greenbrier, except for one man who lives in Pulaski County and owns a home in Perryville.

“From about July 2010 through August 2011, well over (1,000) quakes of a minimum magnitude of 1.0 have occurred in the area,” according to the lawsuit. “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 four wells in a 1,150-square-mile area mostly north of Conway because of the earthquakes.

An Arkansas Democrat-Gazette article in July 2011 reported the Faulkner County quakes caused no injuries and no 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, a Searcy County community almost 50 miles north of Greenbrier.

Little Rock lawyer Scott Poynter, whose firm represents the 14 households, said in an email to the newspaper that the firm also has four federal consolidated cases on behalf of 12 households still pending.

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