A Native American tribe in Oklahoma has filed a lawsuit against several oil and gas companies, alleging their wastewater disposal activities triggered the largest recorded earthquake in the state’s history last September and caused extensive damage to the reservation.
The Pawnee Nation filed the lawsuit in Pawnee Nation District Court, the tribe’s own court system, on Friday, according to the Associated Press. An official in the clerk’s office confirmed to NGI’s Shale Dailyon Monday that a lawsuit was filed by the tribe over the earthquake on Friday, but declined to comment further. She declined to provide a copy of the complaint to the media.
The report said therecord earthquake, which measured 5.8-magnitude, caused extensive damage to tribal buildings, some of which are nearly a century old, and caused other property damage. The tribe is also reportedly seeking punitive damages from the temblor, which struck on Sept. 3, 2016, near Pawnee, OK.
Oklahoma City-based Cummings Oil Co. and Tulsa-based Eagle Road Oil LLC are reportedly two of the defendants named in the lawsuit.
Regulators with the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) and its Oil and Gas Conservation Division (OGCD) issued a directive to shut down 37 disposal wells targeting the Arbuckle formation immediately after the quake. Four days later, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ordered an additional 17 disposal wells to shut down.
Although all 37 of the wells ordered shut down by OCC and OGCD lie within a 725-square-mile area of the state, an additional 211 square miles of that zone are in Osage County and are part of the Osage Nation Mineral Reserve, where EPA is the permitting authority for disposal wells under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
The Pawnee Nation’s headquarters are in Pawnee, and the tribe has jurisdiction over parts of Oklahoma’s Noble, Payne and Pawnee counties.
Last month, OCC and OGCD issued a directive aimed at limiting future volume increases at disposal wells. Specifically, regulators made adjustments to the distribution of volume allotments issued in earlier directives, and set additional limits for wells within a 15,000-square mile area of interest (AOI) that were not included previously. OGCD said some of the wells covered are high-volume wells permitted to dispose of up to 100,000 b/d of wastewater.
OCC and OGCD for two years have been trying to mitigate induced seismic activity across the state, especially from wastewater injection wells targeting the Arbuckle formation. Regulators have focused on operations in the Mississippian Lime and the Hunton Dewatering play, which lie within the AOI.