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Environmental Groups Threaten Lawsuit Over Oklahoma Earthquakes

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Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma
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An oil and gas operation in Logan County, Okla., in 2015.

Environmental groups are threatening to sue four Oklahoma energy companies over earthquakes linked to oil and gas activity. The groups say the companies’ waste fluid injection operations are violating federal pollution law.

Scientists think the industry practice of pumping oil and gas waste fluid underground is responsible for Oklahoma’s earthquake boom. Public Justice and the Oklahoma Chapter of the Sierra Club argue some of the pumping — known as injection — is illegal under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act because it may endanger the public and the environment. Public Justice Executive Director Paul Bland says a lawsuit may be necessary because government regulators haven’t responded with enough force.

“Until an earthquake actually injures Kevin Durant personally, it seems like the state’s not going to do anything," says Bland. "So private citizens are allowed under federal law to bring a case, where someone is endangering the public, to ask the court to step in and stop it, and that’s what we’re doing.”

Chesapeake Energy, Devon Energy, New Dominion and Sandridge Energy were named in the letter warning of the potential lawsuit. New Dominion declined to comment. The other three companies didn’t respond to interview requests.

Joe was a founding reporter for StateImpact Oklahoma (2011-2019) covering the intersection of economic policy, energy and environment, and the residents of the state.
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