July 01, 2016

Shaking it up: Sierra Club brings novel RCRA claim in an attempt to tighten regulation of fracking-related activities

Matt Douglas and Jamen Tyler

The steady increase in the use of hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) has brought with it a debate about the impact of fracking and fracking-related activities on human health and the environment. While industry cites a lengthy track record of successful fracking operations over decades, citizen groups have raised concerns over risks of water contamination, climate change, and induced earthquakes. The earthquake risk in particular has been the subject of a great deal of recent scientific literature and public concern, and the State of Oklahoma has acknowledged on its website a likely connection between wastewater injection wells and an increase in seismic activity. Earthquakes in Oklahoma, Oklahoma Geological Survey, http://earthquakes.ok.gov/what-we-are-doing/oklahoma-geological-survey/ (last visited May 11, 2016). Although there have been numerous government actions relating to fracking, including new and revised state and federal regulations, citizen groups have voiced frustration over the pace and substance of government actions, which have, in their view, not gone far enough to curtail or ban fracking activities. These groups have increasingly attempted to take matters into their own hands, with decidedly mixed results. In their recently filed Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) lawsuit, Sierra Club has taken a new approach: arguing for the judicial creation of a quasi-regulatory regime intended to address the “imminent and substantial endangerment” allegedly presented by induced earthquakes. Sierra Club v. Chesapeake Operating, LLC, Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief Under 42 U.S.C. § 6972(a)(1)(B) (W.D. Okla. Feb. 16, 2016).

Premium Content For:
  • Environment, Energy, and Resources Section
Join - Now