“Lawyerin” for the Environment

Written by Alex Ortmann, ESLLC 2016-2017

Recently, a Federal law suit was brought by the Sierra Club against the Chesapeake Operating LLC. The suit was a result of evidence suggesting fracking in the Oklahoma and Southern Kansas has dramatically increased the amount of earthquakes in the area. Sierra Club’s goal in the suit was to reduce the waste produced from fracking, get seismic monitoring systems in the area, and reinforce structures vulnerable to high magnitude earthquakes.

The Sierra Club argued that the deep injections of liquid waste from the operations by the Chesapeake, Devon, and New Dominion fracking corporations have contributed to the increase in seismic activity in the Oklahoma and Southern Kansas area as well as increased the risk of public harm which could result from fracking waste. They presented evidence to the courts proving that earthquakes have increased 300 fold in the area from 167 before 2009 to 5,838 between 2009 and 2015, with the severity of the earthquakes also increasing. Furthermore, seismologists say a magnitude 7 earthquake can happen on the Nehama Fault which is located near this region. This increase has made Oklahoma one of the highest risk earthquake regions in the United States.

Unfortunately, the court ruled in favor of the energy corporations on the bases that the federal judiciary system was not qualified in the science behind the data, nor had the right to do so since the state of Oklahoma had jurisdiction. As a result, the decision to bring legislative changes was given to Oklahoma, making it harder for this provisions to pass. The corporations also argued that they complied with the OCC, which is an Oklahoma State oversight on fracking wells, regulations, regardless of the environmental risks.

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