Oklahoma’s highest court has decided to hear a lawsuit that alleges two oil companies are liable for injuries a Prague woman suffered during a 2011 earthquake.
The lawsuit by Sandra Ladra of Prague is among dozens of lawsuits filed in the past several years that allege oil and gas companies are responsible for earthquakes. Similar lawsuits seeking class-action status have been filed against energy companies in Arkansas and Texas.
A Lincoln County judge dismissed Ladra’s case, but the Oklahoma Supreme Court decided on Dec. 2 to hear her appeal instead of referring it to the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals, the Tulsa World reported Sunday.
An attorney for one of the companies warned that the lawsuit, if successful, would cause energy companies to abandon wastewater disposal wells across the state.
“These wells will become economic and legal-liability pariahs,” Robert Gum, who represents Tulsa-based oil and gas company New Dominion LLC, told a Lincoln County judge during an October hearing in the case.
Spess Oil Co., based in Cleveland, Oklahoma, is also named as a defendant. Gum and attorneys for Spess have denied the companies are responsible for triggering earthquakes.
Numerous scientific studies and the U.S. Geological Survey have linked wastewater injection wells to “induced” earthquakes. The wastewater is a mixture of saltwater and toxic chemicals produced by oil and gas operations.
Studies published in Science magazine and elsewhere have found the waste pumped deep into faulted zones causes pressure to build up, triggering earthquakes miles away. Oklahoma recorded 567 earthquakes last year of 3.0 magnitude or greater, more than in the previous 30 years combined.
The U.S. Geological Survey cited a study by one of its seismologists and other scientists that found the Prague quake was triggered by three wastewater injection wells nearby.
Ladra’s lawsuit alleges that New Dominion and Spess operated wastewater disposal wells that triggered the Nov. 5, 2011, earthquake – a 5.6 magnitude quake that was the largest in state history.
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