The oil and gas boom in Oklahoma has had many incredibly positive effects. Oil and gas production is up nearly 50% from 2010, and all that growth has created jobs and increased economic activity. The energy sector contributes to almost a fifth of state tax revenue, increasing available funds and quality of life. Unfortunately, all of these benefits come at a price.
Oklahoma is now the most seismically active state in the nation. According to NPR’s State Impact, “There is general consensus among scientists that the spike in Oklahoma’s earthquake activity has been triggered by disposal wells, used to dispose of waste from oil and gas drilling operations — including hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’ — a phenomenon known as ‘induced’ seismicity. Nearly two-dozen peer-reviewed, published papers have concluded disposal wells and quakes are likely connected, the New Yorker reported in April 2015.”
The frequency of quakes has increased tremendously over the last five years, almost in lockstep with the increase in production due to fracking. The amount of earthquakes in the state today has swelled from an average of 3 per year in 1991 to a staggering 857 in 2015. That represents an increase of more than 28,000%.
All of that seismic activity is affecting the lives of residents. Building facades are crumbling, houses are sustaining structural damage, and falling debris is creating hazards to life and limb. In fact, the problem is so large that the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled last year that earthquake injury lawsuits were permissible in court.
Lawsuits get results, promote change
A group of homeowners in Edmond have filed a lawsuit against 12 energy companies that highlights the types of damage these earthquakes cause. The lawsuit claims, “As a direct and proximate result of defendants’ negligence, plaintiffs have suffered and will continue to suffer severe and permanent damage to their persons and property.” Alleged damages include “cracked and broken interior and exterior walls” and “movement of the foundations beneath their dwellings.” The suit also alleges that the homeowners suffer “mental and emotional anguish, fear, and worry.”
There are alternatives to the practices that contribute to the rise in earthquakes in OK, but energy companies are reluctant to pursue these options because of their higher cost. Hopefully, lawsuits like the one filed in Edmond will convince big business to change their policies. In the meantime, residents continue to suffer damages and injuries from negligent practices.
If you or someone you know has suffered damages or been injured during an earthquake, you may be entitled to compensation. The experienced Oklahoma personal injury lawyers at Stipe Law Firm can evaluate your case and help get you the compensation you deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation at our McAlester office.