Fracking Litigation Controversy Affects Oklahoma Companies

The oil and gas industry in Oklahoma has long been a primary supporter of the state's economy, and major energy corporations including Fortune 500 companies Chesapeake Energy and Devon Energy have made their home in Oklahoma.  However, these and other energy corporations have been the target of litigation for the use of  a process called hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking,"  which has become a primary method of extracting natural gas stores that would otherwise be inaccessible beneath domestic shale formations. Oklahoma Class Action LawyerThough fracking proponents hail the method for reducing dependence on foreign oil, opponents say the process contaminates groundwater and is a hazard.  Personal injury lawsuits have been filed against several drillers, but as plaintiffs are soon discovering, fracking litigation is easily defensible and personal injury claims related to fracking are often dismissed or settled relatively inexpensively. NationalDriller.com explains fracking as follows: "Today, it is common knowledge that the United States is home to trillions of cubic feet of recoverable natural gas, which is mainly contained in shale rock formations located far below the earth’s surface. This “shale gas” is now recoverable thanks to developments in horizontal drilling and fracking technologies that permit larger areas of shale gas to be harvested from a single well pad. The fracking process consists of pumping a fluid and a propping material, such as sand, down the well under high pressure to create fractures in the gas-bearing rock. The propping material (“proppant”) holds the fractures open, allowing more gas to flow into the well. This “fracking fluid” consists mostly of water, but it also contains compounds to make the fracking process more effective. The compounds often include a friction reducer, a biocide, a gel and various other agents." Litigation arises from fear that the chemicals contained in the "fracking fluid" contaminate groundwater, and other lawsuits point to property damage and the belief that fracking may increase seismic activity.  However, drillers say that any contamination of groundwater occurs not from fracking itself, but from negligent handling of materials above ground.  With proper precautions, they say, fracking is environmentally safe. In some fracking personal injury cases, courts are now requiring plaintiffs to prove a causal connection between their alleged illnesses and fracking prior to trial.  These cases are often dismissed as plaintiffs are unable to do so.  However, in 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cautioned that fracking could, in fact, contaminate groundwater, which spurred roughly 40 lawsuits. For those working on rigs or drilling in the field, the oil and natural gas industry can be a dangerous occupation.  Exposure to chemicals, fires, falls, and other industrial accidents can cause significant injury.  If you believe your illness was caused by fracking, or if you have been injured in an oilfield accident, you may be able to obtain compensation for your injuries.

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