Fracking in Arkansas Draws Legal Fire

People opposed to hydraulic fracturing (aka fracking) in Arkansas are looking to the courts for help in their fight. Several Arkansas residents have joined with environmental groups in a lawsuit against the federal government to stop natural gas drilling in the Ozark National Forest and under Greers Ferry Lake. In another action, a resident of Faulkner County has filed a class action lawsuit seeking millions of dollars for damages from earthquakes allegedly associated with fracking.

Fracking involves blasting a mix of water, chemicals, and sand into shale rock formations to shake loose natural gas deposits. As fracking has become more widespread in recent years, concerns about its possible environmental impacts have grown as well.

The fracking lawsuit filed against the federal government alleges that effects of fracking upon the environment are unknown and uncertain, and should be studied more thoroughly. It further alleges that the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service have violated the law by failing to conduct environmental impact statements and Resource Management Plans for the Forest.

The plaintiffs ask that the Federal Court enjoin the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service and the Corps of Engineers from issuance of any additional gas leases until environmental impact statements and resource management plans have been completed and approved. The lawsuit further asks that the Bureau of Land Management be ordered to halt any activities being conducted by under any gas leases already issued by it in Arkansas.

The second lawsuit names BHP Billiton Petroleum, Chesapeake Operating, Inc., and Clarita Operating, LLC as defendants. It claims injection wells used in fracking have caused thousands of earthquakes near the towns of Greenbrier and Guy. The lawsuit claims residents of Faulkner and surrounding counties have sustained property damage, loss of fair market value in real estate, emotional distress, and damages related to the purchase of earthquake insurance.

As we’ve reported previously, Arkansas has recently experienced a surge in seismic activity, including the biggest earthquake recorded by the state in more than three decade. Ninety percent of the earthquakes recorded in the state since 2009 have occurred within six kilometers of salt water disposal sites associated with fracking operations.

The lead plaintiff in the earthquake lawsuit is the head of Stop Arkansas Fracking.

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