The controversial methods of extracting natural gas know as hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, has been linked to earthquakes. Now, people affected by those quakes in Arkansas have filed a suit. These lawsuits are some of the first of their kind in the United States and are aimed at two companies, Chesapeake Energy’s operating subsidiary and BHP Billiton, and it’s claimed that a number of earthquakes that hit central Arkansas in 2010 and 2011 and damaged their homes and businesses were directly caused by the injection of wastewater into deep wells.
The natural gas industry – which uses fracking to pull gas out of the ground – has been a boon to the struggling American economy. However, several issues (including the alleged link between fracking and earthquakes) concerns have cast a dark shadow over the natural gas industry and their methods of extraction. Europe has been hit by regular protests aimed to stop the use of fracking due to health and safety concerns. Adding to those concerns, seismologists at the U.S. Geological Survey say as many as 1,000 micro quakes have hit parts of Arkansas in 2010 and 2011, a huge increase over the historical average that is correlated with increased fracking in the same area. “I’ve never noticed it (before),” says Danny Hicks, who he has lived southeast of Clinton for over 15 years along Highway 330 in Van Buren County. “You wonder what is going on with all the drilling.”
The plaintiffs in the suit claim that the repeated micro quakes have destroyed parts of their homes and made the homes unstable. They claim that this instability makes the homes unsafe to live in.
As many as 40 lawsuits have been filed since 2009, and these “earthquake cases” are being closely watched by the natural gas industry, who fear that these suits could open a flood gate of similar legal action brought by environmental and religious groups who oppose fracking.