Will it eventually take larger class action lawsuits to reform and initiate regulations governing the oil and gas hydraulic fracturing or fracking drilling process in Oklahoma and elsewhere?
Given that the oil and gas political lobby is so entrenched in states like Oklahoma and Texas it seems logical that the court system might well be the only alternative to make fracking safer and to recover damages from its impact.
In Oklahoma, the main problem when it comes to fracking right now seems to be related to earthquakes. Scientists claim disposal wells used in the fracking process can trigger earthquakes, such as the one near Prague in 2011 that caused damage.
A Prague woman recently filed a lawsuit to recover damages she suffered in the 2011 5.7-magnitude quake, as first reported in The Journal Record. Her lawsuit targets two energy-related companies.
The lawsuit is just one of an increasing number of legal actions related to alleged damage caused by the fracking process, according to the International Business Times. I would argue that the lawsuits are, at one level, a direct result of ineffective regulations governing the fracking process. State leaders here and in other states long tied to the oil and gas industry, such as Texas, have been slow to react despite growing scientific evidence linking disposal wells to earthquakes.
One question raised by the individual lawsuits is if broader class action lawsuits eventually filed in federal court could bring about nationwide reform, which might include a moratorium on disposal wells. Other issues related to fracking, such as alleged water contamination, could be addressed legally as well in such lawsuits.
It becomes a question of property rights. Can an oil and gas company damage homes or pollute the common grounds through their actions without any liability or consequence? It’s difficult to imagine a court ruling in favor of that proposition. What makes it difficult, however, is proving collective damage and a scientific consensus. The oil and gas industry has absolutely no fiduciary reason right now to accept liability. They have the money to fight it out in courts.
As I’ve long argued, the oil and gas industry is vitally important to the Oklahoma economy, but, collectively, the rights of individual home owners are far more important. If people can’t own a home or live in a home in this state without the constant fear it will be damaged or even toppled by an earthquake caused by the fracking process, then the geographical space known as Oklahoma becomes eventually nothing more than a vast industrial tract.