Landowners Sue Gas Company Over Frack Fluid

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Aug. 27, 2012 12:00 am  

What happens when millions of gallons of fracking fluid are seeping into your property? A lawsuit, of course.

A suit has recently been filed in the Eastern District of Arkansas on behalf of Robbie and Gwenna Hill and Joseph and Catherine Smith of Quitman. It involves injection wells, special disposal sites where the hazardous saltwater mixture used in hydraulic fracturing is brought after wells are drilled. The fracking fluid is poured into the wells and comes to rest in reservoirs above and below the Fayetteville Shale.

According to the suit, the fluid has a tendency to migrate up to 2 miles from the well sites, and the underground reservoirs overlap with personal property not belonging to the gas companies. Specifically, about 14 million gallons of fracking fluid was allegedly injected into a well near the plaintiffs' property between 2009 and 2010.

"The issue with toxicity is no one's really sure what [the fluid] is going to do later on as far as migrating," said Timothy Holton, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs.

Southwestern Energy Co. of Houston is coming under fire in particular as it allegedly provides a disposal service for other drillers, and the suit claims that's unlawful enrichment and trespassing due to the fluid seeping from Southwestern's wells into private lands without compensation for the landowners.

If approved, the suit will be a class action affecting anyone with land 3 miles or less from an injection well. The lawyers - Timothy and John Holton of Memphis and Michael McGartland of Fort Worth, Texas - are demanding $2 million in compensation and $15 million in punitive damage for each landowner in the suit.

Southwestern has not yet responded to the claims.

 

 

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