For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 
Johnson Bridgwater, (405) 902-2288,
Jonathon Berman, (202) 495-3033,

Environmental Groups Warn Oklahoma Fracking Operators of Potential Legal Action

Sierra Club & Public Justice Say Industry is Responsible for Increased Seismic Activity

Oklahoma City, OK - Public Justice and Sierra Club filed a ‘Notice of Intent to Sue’ Friday with four energy companies engaged in hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, in the state of Oklahoma. The groups have notified Sandridge Exploration and Production, New Dominion, Chesapeake Operating and Devon Energy Production Company of new evidence linking production waste from fracking and oil production with increased and ongoing earthquake activity in and around central Oklahoma. They have demanded the companies take immediate action to modify their operations in a way that will substantially reduce seismic activity, or face legal action.

In 2014, seismologists reported more than 5,000 earthquakes in Oklahoma, and geologists predict seismic activity to continue at that level throughout 2015. “Since late 2009,” the groups note in their letter, “the rate of magnitude-3 or larger earthquakes in north-central Oklahoma has been nearly 300 times higher than in previous decades.” The letter also notes that “Overlaying the locations of Defendants’ wells onto the places where earthquakes above magnitude 3.5 have been felt shows that earthquakes are occurring in the vicinity of the Defendants’ wells or along fault lines that are close to the wells.” The groups have concluded that the large volume of production waste from fracking and oil production operations that is injected into the ground is causing this increased activity and raises the likelihood of “a devastating quake that could kill large numbers of people and cause massive environmental devastation.”

“Oklahoma is literally being shaken to its core by the operations of these oil and gas companies,” said Paul Bland, executive director of Public Justice. “The link between Oklahoma’s dramatic earthquake activity and the industry’s fracking operations has been established by countless experts, including the Oklahoma Geological Survey, the U.S. Geological Survey and the scientists who have assembled the compelling and conclusive evidence referenced in our letter today. Most importantly, the impact of this devastating process is felt, every single day, by the citizens of Oklahoma. There is a clear and present danger posed by these irresponsible operations. If the energy companies do not voluntarily take action to stop it, we will take them to court.”

“I am angry and offended that the oil and gas industry has been so slow to protect Oklahoma and its citizens in the face of this earthquake crisis,” said Barbara Vanhanken, Chair of the Oklahoma Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Stopping this ever-strengthening earthquake crisis is critical to the health and well-being of all Oklahomans. To ignore the human cost being paid for the earthquake problems tied to oil and gas operations in Oklahoma is cold-blooded and heartless. It reinforces the concept that profits matter more than people.”

The groups have demanded the energy companies take immediate steps to curb further activity and damage, including: Immediately and substantially reducing the amount of Production Waste injected into the ground; reinforcing structures that are most vulnerable to large magnitude earthquakes; and establishing an independent monitoring and prediction center to forecast the amount of Waste that can be safely injected while tracking seismic activity to confirm and modify those predictions.

The letter warns that, “the risk is not only that there are more frequent earthquakes; it is also that those earthquakes have been, and will continue to be, more severe.” Unless the companies take substantial action to reduce this risk, the groups write, “Citizens will sue in federal court to protect themselves and their environment.”

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The Sierra Club is the oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization in the United States. It was founded on May 28, 1892 in San Francisco, California by the well-known conservationist and preservationist John Muir, who became its first president. The Sierra Club has hundreds of thousands of members in chapters located throughout the US, and is affiliated with Sierra Club Canada.

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