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Ohio Utica Shale

Arkansas lawsuit aimed at injection wells

By Bob Downing Published: October 6, 2012

From the Associated Press:

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A group of residents in Independence and Faulkner counties are suing three natural gas drilling companies, claiming that waste fluids are improperly being pumped underneath land the companies don't own or lease.

An amended version of the lawsuit was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Little Rock, adding several plaintiffs and two of the drilling companies. The lawsuit seeks class status for affected landowners living above the gas-rich Fayetteville Shale formation in central Arkansas.

Houston-based Southwestern Energy Co. was the only company named in the original version of the suit, which was filed in August. Southwestern Energy filed a motion to dismiss the original suit, arguing the plaintiffs didn't show they had a claim.

Added to the amended version were Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy Corp. and Fort Worth, Texas-based XTO Energy Inc.

A Chesapeake spokesman said the company would not comment, and XTO Energy didn't immediately return a phone message seeking a response to the lawsuit. Southwestern responded to a request for comment but did not immediately provide one.

The lawsuit notes that the companies charge against lease holders' royalties for disposal of the drilling fluids, which the plaintiffs claim contain chemicals that include formaldehyde, methanol and others.

To bring natural gas to the surface, drillers inject fluids under high pressure to fracture underground rock, a process sometimes called fracking. A portion of that fluid returns to the surface and the companies have to collect and dispose of it. It's that drilling fluid that is at the center of the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs, led by Robbie and Gwenna Hill of Quitman, argue that fluid that's injected at disposal sites is migrating beneath their property as it fills cavities in porous rock deep below the surface.

"As a result of their activities, the (companies) are unjustly enriched by trespassing upon the lands of the plaintiffs and others, and were that not enough, the defendants are also receiving income for disposing of the oilfield waste on land owned by others," the lawsuit states. The term "oilfield waste" covers fluids involved in natural gas drilling.

The suit was filed by attorneys Timothy R. Holton and John R. Holton of Memphis, Tenn., and Michael P. McGartland of Fort Worth, Texas.

The suit says some of the plaintiffs have signed mineral leases with the companies but the court action claims those contracts do not include permission to dispose of excess drilling fluids at the sites.

Southwestern Energy's response to the original action said the land owners "plead no facts connecting Southwestern's actions with their supposed damages, which also lack any specificity. Further, plaintiffs willfully ignore the publicly recorded mineral leases that expressly allow injection of fracking fluids below their lands."

Southwestern attached copies of leases that note that fluids will be injected at the sites.
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Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management State agency Web site.

ODNR Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management. State drilling permits. List is updated weekly.

ODNR Division of Geological Survey.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Ohio State University Extension.

Ohio Farm Bureau.

Ohio Oil and Gas Association, a Granville-based group that represents 1,500 Ohio energy-related companies.

Ohio Oil & Gas Energy Education Program.

Energy In Depth, a trade group.

Marcellus and Utica Shale Resource Center by Ohio law firm Bricker & Eckler.

Utica Shale, a compilation of Utica shale activities.

Landman Report Card, a site that looks at companies involved in gas and oil leases.FracFocus, a compilation of chemicals used in fracking individual wells as reported voluntarily by some drillers.

Chesapeake Energy Corp,the Oklahoma-based firm is the No. 1 driller in Ohio.

Rig Count Interactive Map by Baker Hughes, an energy services company.

Shale Sheet Fracking, a Youngstown Vindicator blog.

National Geographic's The Great Shale Rush.

The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.

Buckeye Forest Council.

Earthjustice, a national eco-group.

Stop Fracking Ohio.

People's Oil and Gas Collaborative-Ohio, a grass-roots group in Northeast Ohio.

Concerned Citizens of Medina County, a grass-roots group.

No Frack Ohio, a Columbus-based grass-roots group.

Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat by ProPublica, an online journalism site.

Penn State Marcellus Center.

Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.

Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.