The Sierra Club is threatening to sue four oil companies over allegations that their wastewater disposal operations caused hundreds of earthquakes in Oklahoma.

In their notice of intent to sue, published on November 2, the Sierra Club claims that the oil companies are violating the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, a federal law that governs the disposal of solid and hazardous wastes.  

The Sierra Club is demanding that these companies:

1) Immediately substantially reduce the amounts of Production Wastes they are injecting

into the ground to levels that seismologists believe will not cause or contribute to increased

earthquake frequency and severity. At minimum, the current rates of injection, particularly into

the Arbuckle Formation, must be reduced substantially to cause a major reduction in the current

unacceptable earthquake risks;

2) Reinforce vulnerable structures that current forecasts show could be hit by large

magnitude earthquakes during the interim period;

 3) Establish an independent earthquake monitoring and prediction center to analyze and

forecast how much Production Wastes can be injected without inducing earthquakes and track

how closely the ongoing earthquakes conform to predictions. This may involve further

investigation and characterization of the underlying rock, including the Arbuckle Formation.

 

Moreover, if the companies do not meet these demands, the Sierra Club intends “to file suit in federal district court at any time beginning ninety (90) days after the certified receipt of this letter.”

The Sierra Club’s notice comes on the heels of recent comments made by U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Susan Hough. According to Hough and the USGS, the link between fracking and earthquakes is “a red herring” and deep underground injections to dispose wastewater has a longer history than the recent fracking boom.