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Lawsuit Filed Over Fayetteville Shale Quakes

May 25, 2011
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A lawsuit seeking class action status has been filed in Arkansas against a trio of energy companies alleging that their activities have caused "thousands of earthquakes in central Arkansas."

Law firm Emerson Poynter LLP filed the suit in Faulkner County Circuit Court in Conway, AR, against BHP Billiton Petroleum entities, Chesapeake Operating Inc. and Clarita Operating LLC on behalf of Sam and April Lane of Greenbrier, AR.

"The class action alleges these oil and gas companies operate certain injection wells near Greenbrier and Guy, AR, that have caused thousands of earthquakes in central Arkansas [see Shale Daily, March 17], resulting in damages to residents in Faulkner County and those counties that border it (Conway, Van Buren, Cleburne, Perry and White)," the firm said.

The lawsuit seeks "millions of dollars in damages for property damage, loss of fair market value in real estate, emotional distress, and damages related to the purchase of earthquake insurance." Injunctive relief might also be sought to ensure the continued shut-in of two injection wells operated by the defendants (see Shale Daily, May 24) and potentially to stop other injection wells that are alleged to be contributing to the region's seismic activity.

Earlier this year the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission began an investigation into the cause of increased seismic activity in the region (see Shale Daily, March 8). Two drilling waste injection wells remain shut in as part of that investigation.

A BHP Billiton spokesman declined comment on the lawsuit. "We acquired the Fayetteville Shale assets from Chesapeake Energy on 31 March, 2011. The salt water disposal wells in question were shut in prior to our acquisition of the assets," he said. "Our goal is to develop the Fayetteville Shale in line with our values of ensuring that we fully protect people, the environment and communities where we operate."

Chesapeake and Clarita did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Emerson Poynter has offices in Little Rock, AR, and Houston.

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