Rural Residents Take on Gas Companies Over Fracking-Linked Earthquakes

Time has taught us that appealing to the fossil fuel industry’s sense of morality is pointless. Apparently, they have no morals. Instead we come at them with science-backed lawsuits.

Following a recent study that linked over 100 anomalous earthquakes in Ohio to hydraulic fracturing, residents of small communities across the United States are taking Big Gas to court.

We’re not talking about towns in California or any of the other earthquake hotspots in America. We’re talking about communities in the middle of America that had never experienced an earthquake in reported history; that is, until fracking operations came to town.

Fracking uses high-powered streams of chemical-laden water to increase underground pressure. This pressure expands underground pores where natural gas likes to hide, forcing it to the surface. Unfortunately, extraction is only part of the fracking story. After the gas has been extracted, there’s the issue of what to do with the leftover wastewater.

Typically, fracking companies will dump wastewater into underground disposal wells that have been drilled into vast, permeable rock formations. “Because water is heavy, the more of it that is sluiced into a well, the more it weighs on the rock below,” explains Mother Jones. “When pore pressure spikes in disposal wells, it can move rock.” And when underground rocks start jitter-bugging around, it means people and buildings on the surface are going for a ride. Although the industry denies any culpability, people living in affected communities have all the proof they need.

“Youngstown, Ohio, experienced its very first earthquake in January 2011. From then until February 2012, it experienced 108 more,” reports Salon. “In 2010 and 2011, the quiet farming town of Greenbrier, Arkansas, was rattled by a swarm of more than 1,000 minor earthquakes,” explains Reuters. When the Arkansas Oil and Gas commission ordered gas companies to shut down their fracking wastewater disposal wells, the quakes stopped immediately. That was enough for the good people of Greenbrier.

Over a dozen residents of the rural town have filed five lawsuits in federal court against Chesapeake Operating Inc., which owned the wastewater disposal wells in 2010, and BHP Billiton, which purchased Chesapeake’s shale gas assets in 2011.

The suits mark the first time citizens have gone after gas companies for causing natural disasters. Most previous suits have focused on health and environmental consequences of fracking, which gas companies have become deft at wiggling out of. Because the Arkansas litigation does not target fracking itself, but rather the disposal of the leftover toxic, briny water, it’s hoped that the Greenbrier case will blaze a new trail that other fracking opponents can follow.

Image via Thinkstock


Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Marilyn McClelland

It extremely sad that people have to spend their hard earned money and valuable time on keeping their homes safe and the planet how it should have remained all along. How the people involved in these destructive companies can sleep at nights and face their families knowing the damage they are doing beats me. They either have no conscience or because it is not happening to them it is OK. Time to make them accountable and to set stringent rules for fracking, oil and coal companies to protect everyone from eventual annihilation.

Jennifer C.
Past Member 5 years ago


Frans Badenhorst
Frans Badenhorst5 years ago

interesting post Beth...please do keep us posted on this issue....I am curious as to see MUCH more of these occurrences....hopefully....

Shanti S.
S S5 years ago

Thank you.

Janet Gibbon
Janet G5 years ago

I will never understand how the powers that be could ever have been blinded to the potential consequences of fracking!?!
Climate change and it's causes have been known about for at least 30 years (I was taught about global warming at school, there would be more erratic and extreme weather patterns, flooding, melting of the ice caps...). Instead of using that time to forge ahead with clean energy, fossil fuel output was increased. The fuel companies had plenty of time to develop healthier (for the planet and all on it) practices but chose excessive profits and now expect a.n.other to fund the development and clean-up.
The very best of luck to all those everywhere fighting this dangerous and abusive practice.

Danuta Watola
Danuta W5 years ago

Thanks for posting

Cathleen K.
Cathleen K5 years ago

Small town, white America are the only ones who can stop this, frankly. Everyone else can be accused of spin, but when Republican voters start rising up and saying "I now live in an earthquake zone and my water is easy to set on fire", there'll be no way to duck the truth, eventually. Unfortunately, a lot more damage will have to be done before there are enough of them to cause a problem for the electoral prospects of the oil patch party.

Karen H.
Karen H5 years ago

Oil lubricates the tectonic plates. Without that lubrication, we are in danger of more earthquakes. Oil & Gas companies need to find alternatives sources of energy before it's too late.

Sue H.
Sue H5 years ago

I sure hope that this approach will work. Sad that citizens have to sue to keep our planet safe.
The fracking companies clearly don't give a damn about leaving a wasteland for future generations.