Southwestern Energy Faces Two Arkansas Fracking LawsuitsMay 25, 2011 | Parker Waichman LLP
Two new lawsuits filed by residents of Quitman, Arkansas allege that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, being performed by Southwestern Energy at natural gas wells near their property has contaminated drinking water wells. In addition to Southwestern Energy, both Arkansas fracking lawsuits name XTO Energy (a subsidiary of Exxon Mobile Corp.) Chesapeake Energy Corp. and BHP Billiton are named as defendants.
The plaintiffs in these two lawsuits allege that their property values have diminished as a result of natural-gas drilling. In one case, plaintiffs contend that an outside testing firm found “a flammable and poisonous chemical which is a known component of fracking fluid” in the water. In the second lawsuit, a Quitman couple alleges that in January a water well on an adjacent property was spewing large quantities of methane gas and hydrogen sulfide into the air, and that the gases caused severe contamination of ponds on the property.
Both filings state that chemicals used during hydraulic fracturing contaminates the “soil, groundwater, lakes, ponds, reservoirs, springs, creeks, drinking water wells, air and atmosphere.” The lawsuits also seek class action status on behalf of hundreds of people living within 3 miles of a Southwestern Energy wellhead whose well water may have been tainted by fracking.
Last September, Southwestern Energy was named in a lawsuit filed on behalf of 12 Pennsylvania families who claim their well water was tainted by natural gas drilling. Those families, all of whom reside in Lenox Township, Susquehanna County, are being represented by Parker Waichman LLP.
The plaintiffs involved in the Pennsylvania lawsuit allege that the defendants were negligent in the drilling, construction and operation of a natural gas well and allowed pollutants, including fracking fluid, to be discharged into the ground or into the waters near their homes and water wells. Among other things, the lawsuit claims that the plaintiffs have been and continue to be exposed to hazardous chemicals, including barium, manganese and strontium. At least one of the Pennsylvania plaintiffs is alleged to have become physically ill, and exhibits neurological symptoms consistent with toxic exposure to heavy metals.
In addition to Southwestern Energy, the Pennsylvania lawsuit names a subsidiary of the company, Southwest Energy Production Company, as a defendant. The lawsuit seeks a preliminary and permanent injunction barring the defendants from engaging in the acts cited by the complaint, as well as abatement of the nuisances, unlawful conduct, violations and damages created by those acts. It also seeks, among other things, compensatory damages, punitive damages, and the cost of future health monitoring.